Morris Township’s mayor says the project doesn’t alleviate Park Avenue’s traffic issues and creates crossover traffic on the turnpike.
MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ — The Route 24 and Columbia Turnpike Interchange project faces indefinite delays, according to Morris County officials. The Board of County Commissioners blamed Morris Township, claiming its government “refused” to provide a letter of support last week that was necessary to secure federal aid.
But Mayor Jeffrey R. Grayzel believes the proposed plans don’t adequately address traffic on Park Avenue — a major component of the project — or in the towns south of the area.
“Morris Township continues to support a better-planned, long-term solution benefiting all the communities seeing the immediate impacts of these traffic problems rather than fast-tracking a modified plan that appears to benefit one party,” Grayzel said.
Grayzel, a Democrat, has been a long-time member of the Township Committee and is currently serving as mayor. The County Commissioners are all-Republican.
The project will remedy “dangerous traffic problems” at the Route 24 and Columbia Turnpike interchange, the board of commissioners said in a statement. Over past decades, the area — around the borders of Hanover Township, Florham Park and Morris Township — has seen significant commercial and residential growth.
Obtaining federal funding required several parties, including each town affected, to submit letters of support. But Morris Township didn’t do its part, according to the county commissioners.
“Regrettably, Morris Township refused to provide a letter of support last week that was crucial to our effort to secure federal aid through Congress,” the board of county commissioners said in a statement on the project. “The window of opportunity has since closed.”
Morris Twp. Mayor Responds
After the county board’s public statement against Morris Township, Grayzel responded with a statement of his own criticizing the proposed plans.
“It is Morris Township’s firm belief that the proposed $6-10 million ramp does not alleviate the biggest problem caused by the multiple issues on Park Avenue, which is the traffic impact to Madison, Chatham Township, and Chatham Borough,” he said. “Further, this proposed solution impacts Morris Township residents from accessing their homes and has the potential to create a whole new ‘crossover traffic’ problem as cars coming off Columbia Turnpike will now need to cross two lanes on Park Avenue — in a very short distance — to access the newly proposed ramp to Route 24.”
Furthermore, the county commissioners chose to move the ramp from its original location of a vacant lot in Hanover to a different spot with a parking lot and office building in Florham Park, Grayzel claims.
“The public deserves an explanation of what caused this shift and a further explanation of how residents of both Florham Park and Morris Township who live on Delaware Road can safely access their homes with a ramp sited directly across from their street,” he said.
Morris Township believes a better solution would involve installing an exit and entry ramp from Route 24 to connect with Campus Drive in Florham, which would access the central area of Park Avenue.
But Grayzel says he didn’t close the door on federal funding.
“I am hopeful that a federal allocation of general infrastructure improvement funding could include money to do the detailed engineering work necessary as a first step to implementing the better solution of accessing route 24 via Campus Drive that addresses all of the problems facing Park Avenue and more importantly addresses the concerns of all affected municipalities,” he said.
The area for the project comprises state and county roads. Route 24 is under NJDOT’s jurisdiction, while Columbia Turnpike and Park Avenue are under Morris County’s.
Between 1980 and 2000, more than 15 million square feet of office space was built in the communities within a 5-mile radius of Florham Park, according to an NJDOT report. The main force behind the development was the construction of Interstates 80, 280 and 280, which provided regional accessibility and available land for development closer to New York City.
In response to the growth, NJDOT replaced Route 24 with new freeway facility, which connected I-287 with I-78. The Route 24 freeway realignment runs through Florham Park.
Route 24 has a full interchange with Columbia Turnpike. The interchange serves as the sole access for more than 5 million square feet of office space, creating significant congestion issues, according to NJDOT. Additionally, the intersection of Columbia Turnpike and Park Avenue contributes to the traffic during morning peak hours, NJDOT says.