Intersection improvements to Route 9 in Lakewood and Toms River, which have been in the planning stages for quite some time, have finally moved a meaningful step forward.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), which owns and maintains Route 9, has made an application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for various environmental permits which are required for the Route 9 improvements, a major step forward to making this project a reality.
The project includes complete repaving of Route 9 from 2nd Street in Lakewood to Indian Hill Road in Toms River, widening of 8 currently signalized intersections with addition of turning lanes, signal upgrades with ADA compatibility, addition of two new traffic signals; addition of two miles of new sidewalks to provide walk-ability and connectivity, and 4 additional stormwater basins in conjunction with updated piping networks.
Specifically, in Lakewood, the following improvements are included in this project:
• Turning lane from Route 9 south to Route 88 will be extended through 1st Street in order to keep through-traffic flowing. A barrier will be installed across 1st Street, making 1st Street right in, right out only on both sides.
• DOT officials have determined that the left turning lanes onto Central and Hurley Ave’s are underutilized. Therefore, they will convert both turning lanes to through lanes, which will give Route 9 dualized lanes from Route 88 till Central/Hurley. This will ban left turns in both directions, forcing northbound traffic to use James and Sunset, to get to Central Ave.
• Pine/James Street intersection will be widened slightly and realigned to fit proper turning lanes in all directions. The realignment will allow turns in both directions at the same time. Additionally, all four approaches will have dedicated-turning arrows.
• Hadassah Lane – Route 9 Northbound will get a left turning lane on to Hadassah Lane.
• Prospect Street – Route 9 Southbound will get a new right turning lane on to Prospect street which will give more space for trucks turns. Additionally, new crosswalks will be painted.
• Spruce Street – new left turning lanes from Route 9 north and southbound onto Spruce Street.
• Oak Street – new traffic light, northbound and southbound left turning lanes, and a northbound right turning lane. Oak Street will also be widened to accommodate 2 lanes onto Route 9.
• Broadway/Chateau will be realigned to meet up. A new traffic light, and left turning lanes in all directions (on Route 9 and on the intersecting streets) will be installed.
• Finchley/Ford – Route 9 will get left turning lanes at Finchley/Ford
• Cross Street / Chestnut Street will be realigned with an additional third lane on Chestnut Street. The realignment will allow for left turns in both directions at the same time.
• Locust street – a new right turning lane will be added westbound onto Route 9 north for traffic coming off Route 70.
• Many gaps of the sidewalks will be filled in. Many current sidewalks will be widened to 5 feet.
Over the past year, NJDOT has worked on acquiring the right-of-way needed from the 220 property owners throughout project limits. This acquisition work continues.
The environmental reviews are likely to be completed in September.
Once the environmental reviews are complete, NJDOT expects to award the construction project in Winter 2022, and to begin construction in Spring 2022, and to complete construction in Summer 2024. The total project cost will be finalized once the project is awarded. It is currently estimated to cost $53.2 Million.
NJDOT will hold a public information meeting after a contractor is awarded this project.
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.
In June 2020, DOT notified local officials that that project would cost $555 million and DOT had decided to withdraw their plans for a project of that scope.
In September 2020, in response to Ocean County officials again pressing DOT to reconsider, DOT explained in a letter that “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…” (See full letter below).