No Real Way to Put the Brakes on Traffic Congestion in NJ, Experts Say
Last week, we reported on a recent Texas A&M study showing that New Jersey drivers spend up to two weeks a year stuck in traffic jams. So you might be wondering - is there any real way to alleviate this congestion?
Unfortunately, the answer appears to be a resounding "no."
New Jersey Department of Transportation Spokesman Steve Schapiro says in many parts of the Garden State "you've got buildings and businesses right along that highways that you'd be affecting, you'd have to be putting people out of business or purchasing their land so that's not an option."
Martin Robins, lead researcher at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, said adding even one lane in each direction of our major highways to ease congestion would cost a small fortune.
"It is impossible to calculate what it would cost but it would take multiple years and it would take multiple billions of dollars to do that," he said. "And everywhere you look in New Jersey you find immense obstacles, there are historical buildings, there are neighborhoods, there are cemeteries, parklands."
According to Robins, due to the congestion in Jersey, "all the land is accounted for, there's tremendous population density, tremendous commercial density."
"If you ever tried to move forward with a large scale effort to expand major highways there would be so much blood on the ground as a result of people fighting against expansions of highways that they might never be buildable," he said.
Schapiro said the New Jersey DOT manages more than 13,000 "lane miles" of state highways within the borders of the Garden State, and that doesn't even include the NJ Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway.
"Trying to add additional lanes on major roads would be logistically impossible," he said. "We don't even have cost figures on what that would cost, you know the days of widening highways are really gone for New Jersey because we're such a high population density state.'
Schapiro said there's no longer any real way to figure out how much it costs to build a mile of new highway.
"It depends on do you need to acquire rights of way, do you need to relocate utilities, which is something that is quite costly," he said.
Shapiro also said the focus of the DOT is using technology, like sensor image detection cameras and synced traffic lights, to keep traffic moving.
According to Robins, even attempting to expand one busy roadway such as Route 22 - which has always been congested - has been impossible for the DOT over the past 30 years. Robins said the reason for this is that there are just too many commercial access points and there's too much that would have to be upset in order to relieve congestion.
He said realistically speaking, we need to expand our public transportation system - especially into New York City - and we need to encourage future development near mass transit stations and hubs in order to relieve congestion at all.