Two major transportation issues plague much of eastern Morris County: How to handle additional vehicle traffic when new large developments are planned, and the dearth of parking at three key NJ Transit stations.
So two studies aim to develop solutions for those problems.
The first study is an examination of the East Hanover Avenue corridor from Whippany Road in Hanover to Speedwell Avenue in Morris Plains. Those two municipalities, Morris Township and Morris County are conducting the study. It was sought after Hanover changed zoning along the road to entice new businesses, and plans for at least four new potential developments appeared.
The second study is of the parking and business development potential of the , and NJ Transit train stations. Each station has inadequate parking and potentially could support transit-oriented development, the study proposal said.
Each study is funded by a $300,000 regional transportation grant from the state Department of Transportation.
If the solutions generated by these studies are implemented, officials said, they should provide relief for the region’s drivers, commuters, businesses and their employees.
“A major issue for companies is traffic,” said Paul Boudreau, president of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.
Monday through Wednesday of this week, Patch looks at the state of Morris County economic development at the close of 2011.
A Problem for Our Workforce
The chamber annually conducts meetings with the top executives of Morris county companies. This year the effort took place in Parsippany, where traffic concerns were raised, he said.
The concerns range, not just about heavy traffic on the region’s interstate highways, but about the ability of workers who choose not to drive to get from bus stops and transit stations to their workplaces.
The transportation/work nexus is also affected by the price of housing in Morris County, numerous studies have said.
Origination and destination studies—they compare where people live, where they work, and the routes and means they use to get from home to work and back— done by Morris and Sussex counties and the North Jersey Regional Transportation Authority, had highlighted that the high cost of housing in Morris County has driven many workers to live in less expensive areas like Sussex and Warren counties and Pennsylvania.
A study of the working class done by the United Way of Northern New Jersey said that many necessary workers are forced to live far from their jobs because of the cost of housing, and the loss of time and impact on their household budgets affects their ability to get ahead financially.
Freeholder Gene Feyl, who is first vice chairman at NJTPA, said the authority is charged with measuring the economic impact of transportation policy.
A 2008 study of the economic impact of planned transportation investment in New Jersey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development and the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University examined how much economic activity could be generated by the state’s planned 10-year transportation spending plan of $38 billion.
The study excluded some costs, such as the purchase of new train cars and buses, and said that use of $26.6 billion of that total for direct transportation improvements has the potential over 10 years to generate 268,324 jobs; $14.9 billion in personal income; $20.3 billion in state gross domestic product; $747 million in state taxes; and $797 million in local taxes.
East Hanover Avenue Corridor
Feyl said the goal of the East Hanover study is to determine what road improvements might be needed to accommodate additional traffic generated by the proposed developments.
That way the road work can be incorporated into the planning board process, and developer’s responsibility and contribution to the cost of the changes could be determined.
Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler said East Hanover is a very congested road, especially where it meets Speedwell Avenue in the borough.
He said Hanover is planning some large developments, as well as one near American Road. Those and the potential of two shopping centers farther east have the potential to affect borough traffic.
He said that when , the project included traffic improvements like turning lanes, he said.
The early technical study released in November examined the current conditions and potential impacts by 2035 of adding the following developments: 60 town homes on American Road; a Shop Rite center and a 20,000 office center on opposite corners at the Martin Luther King Boulevard and Horsehill Road intersection; and a 90,000-square-foot shopping center at Ridgedale Avenue.
In general the concerns include congestion at several intersections, the lack of turning lanes at key intersections and long queues during rush hours.
At present 3,317 cars pass through all directions of the East Hanover/Speedwell intersection in Morris Plains during the morning rush hour.
Traffic approaching from the east on Hanover backs up currently each morning to Stiles Avenue and beyond, and will continue to do so in 2035.
During the evening rush hour, 3,309 vehicles pass through intersection in all directions.
Currently the westbound backup at that time is about one-half mile, or to the Mercedes-Benz dealership. By 2035, the west bound back-up is projected to stretch 4,500 feet, more than eight-tenths of a mile to the Mennen Co. headquarters.
At the eastern end of the road, 2,283 card pass through the Whippany Road intersection in the morning, and 2,539 vehicles pass through there each evening rush hour.
Currently morning queue is about one-half mile, and by 2035 it is projected to be three-quarters of a mile.
The Train Stations
Gerald Rohsler, director of the Morris County Division of Transportation management said the three-station transit study is designed to find solutions to tight parking at each facility, and to investigate other transportation means, including walking and biking.
The study should get underway in January. Public information sessions will be scheduled as the study unfolds, he said.
The executive summary of the proposed study said the three stations provide access to the NJ Transit Morris & Essex line between two rail hubs, and .
The stations are similar in service and the number of riders who use them. Each station also has similar parking concerns, the study said.
NJ Transit agreed that the three stations be studied as a unit “due to the services currently offered and the regional needs that will be addressed by actions taken at all three stations,” the summary said.
Potential improvements at could be examined during the study are: pedestrian improvements; the addition of a shuttle system; or a parking deck.
The study will take a “comprehensive approach” to the traffic and transit issues along Route 124 (Madison Avenue) corridor, the summary said.
A 2010 study by NJ Transit of the three stations found that there is a potential parking shortfall by 2030 of 320 spaces: 80 at Convent Station; 230 at Madison; and 10 at Chatham.
All the stations offer chiefly resident only parking, with a small number of non-resident spaces. The summary said that 70 percent of Madison’s future parking need are for resident parking.
“Parking management policies appear to make the shortfall of parking worse for non-residents of the area because of the imbalance between resident and non-resident parking demand and supply,” the summary said.
Madison failed to secure a federal TIGER grant for a 506-space parking deck planned to be built adjacent to the train station.
The summary said that this study is one of several such on-going efforts to enhance mobility in southeast Morris County, including a state traffic light project and the potential of a regional shuttle bus service to Madison.
This study follows one done in conjunction with the development of The Green at Florham Park on Park Avenue, and another done by Morris County and six municipalities to measure the impact of that development on numerous side and feeder streets.
This area east of Morristown has seen numerous developments start or begin planning, include the Florham Park project that is now the home of the New York Jets, and in the future, BASF, and other facilities, new projects leading into Madison, and the planned redevelopment of Honeywell International on Columbia Turnpike in Morris Township, adjacent to the Convent Station rail station.