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Ocean County Superior Court Assignment Judge Francis Hodgson has just given a huge N-O to a Lakewood property owner who is delaying the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT)'s long-awaited Route 9 intersection widening project, FAA News has learned.

As first reported here on FAA News, in September 2022, DOT finally got the shovel in the ground on their long-awaited Route 9 intersection widening project through Lakewood and Toms River.

Construction began with utility relocation. The majority of the water main work in Toms River is complete, and about 80 percent of the overhead utility wires have been relocated throughout the project. There is ongoing work throughout the project limits that includes watermain, sewage, telecommunication, and overhead electric/cable relocations, as well as some electrical work to upgrade traffic signals, a NJDOT spokesperson confirmed to FAA News.

This project includes the following improvements to the Route 9 intersection with Oak Street:

Oak Street - Route 9 will be widened with northbound and southbound left turning lanes, and a northbound right turning lane. A new traffic signal will be installed, with a dedicated phasing for left turns from Route 9 which will permit right turns from Oak Street at the same time. Oak Street will also be widened to accommodate 2 lanes onto Route 9. Right turns from Oak Street onto Route 9 will be permitted during the dedicated left-turning phase from Route 9.

The widening of the intersections and construction of the retention basins requires right-of-way acquisition.

DOT's project has been halted because Laurie Leeds, the property owner of the parcel at the Oak Street intersection, - which is currently leased for the placement of a billboard - refused to sign off the necessary right of way acquisition (which happens to be appraised at a grand $81,300).

In response, as previously reported here on FAA News, DOT last month filed legal action seeking for the New Jersey Superior Court to grant the immediate taking of the land by the Power of Eminent Domain.

DOT is represented by Deputy Attorney General Rebecca J. Karol from the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.

On Friday, Judge Hodgson agreed that Ms. Leeds has no right to continue delaying this project, and granted judgment to DOT, accepting their authority to exercise Power of Eminent Domain to take the property.

This granting of judgement permits the Route 9 intersection widening project to pretty soon get back on track.

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