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At the Ocean County Board of Commissioners’ reorganization meeting earlier this week, Frank Sadeghi, the board’s newest member, urged his colleagues to assist Lakewood Township officials in advocating to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) to upgrade Route 9 to a four-lane roadway.

The Commissioners should be forging partnerships with local municipalities to demand that “the state of New Jersey live up to its responsibilities regarding the improvements to Route 9 as well as other state roadways," Sadeghi remarked.

In fact, County commissioners have advocated tirelessly for Route 9. However, it's Lakewood Township officials - with Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein at the helm - who have already done all that they can to ensure that the state does not dualize the road.

As part of the Township's 2017 Master Plan process, - of which Committeeman Lichtenstein was the architect - the Township sought Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission.

This Plan Endorsement was "necessary" in order for the Township to allow for an increase in permitted impervious cover and a reduction in vegetative cover requirements, (i.e. additional overdevelopment) especially in the Cedarbridge Corporate Campus.

Documents obtained by FAA News, shown below, indicate that as part of this process, Township officials were required to "propose a detailed circulation strategy that...  acknowledges that the State does not have the funds to widen Route 9 in the foreseeable future and that Lakewood has investigated alternative north-south roadways to lessen the traffic congestion on Route 9."

In other words, in exchange for receiving the "very important approval" to overdevelop lots in the Cedarbridge Corporate Campus, the State demanded that the Township openly agree to stop asking the State to widen Route 9!

The State Planning Commission further required that Township to "implement land use controls consistent with the desirable typical section for Route 9 in the Access Code. The Township's zoning along Route 9 south of downtown provides for setbacks to help preserve a right of way for future Route 9 widening. However, based on field observation, there appears to be significant development close to the highway. The Township shall provide copies of variances and other provisions that have allowed for encroaching development."

In other words, the State was noting that although the Township previously implemented setback requirements along Route 9 south of downtown to help preserve a right of way for future widening of the roadway, the Township has made widening very difficult as they have also granted variances that have allowed for encroaching development too close to the roadway.

As first reported here on FAA News, DOT is already in middle of an intersection widening project along Route 9.

In 2015, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority - the federally authorized Metropolitan Planning Organization for the 13-county northern New Jersey region - presented plans for a center left turning lane along this section of Route 9. However, in 2020, DOT officials notified local officials that they decided to withdraw their plans for a project of that scope, explaining that that proposal would have cost $555 million because "Route 9 is surrounded by a mix of residential and commercial properties with many having frontage and parking close to the Right-of-way. The resulting widening would have required extensive land acquisitions etc, resulting in significant costs for which DOT does not have sufficient funding."

The full letter is shown below:

Finally, as previously reported here on FAA News, ignoring safety concerns expressed on the issue by the Planning Board, the Township Committee adopted an Ordinance lowering the setback to 17 feet for owner-occupied single family structures. This Ordinance applies to all residential zones, and does not exclude Route 9.

Looks like while the new County Commissioner has some good intentions by suggesting that the County team up with Lakewood to assist in their advocacy, Lakewood Township officials have already destroyed all hopes for a real dualization.

Of course, at the last gubernatorial election, GOP candidate Jack Ciattirell openly vowed numerous times to fund dualization. Apparently, The Vaad didn't think this was important to Lakewood residents as they endorsed Governor Murphy who already stated he was NOT going to widen the road.

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Anonymous said...

Maybe Avi Schnall will work with the county 🤔….

Anonymous said...

Did you know that in 2021 the mayor sent a letter to business and homeowners along rt 9 asking them to donate their land? I have no words...after all it was the town that granted the variances. I can see it now, the state will make Lakewood (us taxpayers) pay for a portion of the ROW's needed to widen rt 9.

Anonymous said...

The Lakewood Township people never wanted to widen Rt. 9.
As the article states, they approved construction right op to the shoulder.