by Phil Stilton,
Toms River Magazine
TOMS RIVER-A meeting was held recently between state and local officials about future improvements to the Route 9 corridor through Toms River and Ocean County. Route 9 is a heavily trafficked multi-lane state highway through most points north of Toms River, but in the south of Lakewood, it becomes a heavily congested single lane thoroughfare. Driving south through Lakewood Township, traffic is often at a stand-still. During peak hours, it doesn’t get better as it winds through Toms River.
In recent traffic studies, state officials determined the Route 571 (Indian Head Road) intersection of Route 9 was the busiest in town, with 26,100 average vehicles per day on weekdays and 27,400 on Saturdays. During the morning and evening rush hours, nearly 2,000 vehicles per hour navigate the road through Toms River. 6-7% of that traffic includes commercial trucks and buses.
The New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) identified the Route 571 intersection, along with Cox Cro Road, Church Road and Route 70 as two major traffic bottleneck and accident prone areas.
Toms River Councilman Maurice Hill was not happy with the options presented by the NJTPA meeting, which did not include a much-needed widening of Route 9.
“It managed to exceed even my low expectations,” Hill said of the presentation.
At the meeting, officials were given green stickers and placed them on a chart of available options in an informal vote on future projects.
Options included new sidewalks, bike paths, wider shoulders, character development and tree plantings. Widening the road was not an available option.
After learning that Route 66 in Neptune Township was recently approved for widening, a disappointed Hill said, “Nothing about enlarging the road. Nothing for Ocean County. Once again, we’re last on the list.”
Of the options presented to the local officials, those in attendance favored pedestrian safety and the construction of sidewalks.
Other desirable items by officials were wider shoulders and improved bus stops.
The most dangerous intersections to navigate by vehicle in Toms River were Indian Head Road and Cox Cro Road, dominated by rear end and left turn crashes, while the Clover Road intersection had the most pedestrian involved crashes, due in part to residents crossing the road to access the Tri-City Plaza.
The objective of the August 18th meeting held at the Ocean County Library was to identify immediate low-cost, high impact short-term projects.
A new traffic signal on Hickory Street was also proposed as well as improvements to the Indian Head Road intersection.
Other items identified in the study were significant delays southbound towards Route 9 due to the lack of a left turn lane and delays at Whitty Road and the Tri-Town plaza traffic light.
In Ocean County, Route 9 has nearly three times as many motor vehicle crashes each year over the statewide average on other parts of the road.
This is a working story, check back later for more information and opinions from state and local officials.