Intersection improvements to Route 9 in Lakewood and Toms River, which have been in the planning stages for quite some time, have again moved a major step forward to making this project a reality.
As previously reported on LNN, back in June, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), which owns and maintains Route 9, made an application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for a required environmental review on their planned improvements to Route 9 in Lakewood and Toms River. That review is now officially complete, pending some conditions.
The main condition requires DOT to submit a proposal to DEP to mitigate for the loss of 0.211 acres of forested, scrub-shrub, and
herbaceous riparian zone vegetation.
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 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 southbound onto Route 88 will be extended through 1st Street in order to keep through-traffic flowing. A 4-foot wide island will be installed across 1st Street to preclude left turns onto 1st Street, and 1st Street will be made into right in, right out only on both sides of Route 9.
• Central Avenue / Hurley Avenue – There are currently left turning lanes on Route 9 onto Central Avenue and Hurley Avenue. DOT officials have determined that these left turning lanes onto Central and Hurley Ave’s are underutilized. Therefore, they will convert these turning lanes to through lanes, which will provide room on Route 9 northbound for an additional through lane. Once that is complete, Route 9 northbound will be widened with an additional through lane from the railroad tracks (just south of Central Avenue / Hurley Avenue) until Route 88 / North Lake Drive.
This will ban left turns in both directions at Central Avenue / Hurley Avenue, forcing northbound traffic to use James and Sunset to get to Central Ave.
• Hurley Avenue / South Lake Drive / Caranetta Drive – A second through lane will be extended on Hurley Avenue for westbound traffic. The east end of South Lake Drive will be modified to ingress only. The east end of Caranetta Drive will be modified to egress only.
• Pine/James Street intersection – The end of Pine Street will be realigned to flatten the existing curve. James Street will be widened to add a left turning lane onto Route 9 northbound. The traffic signal will be modified / replaced so all four approaches will have dedicated-turning arrows, and the realignment will allow turns in both directions at the same time.
• 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 be widened to provide more space for wide turning trucks. 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 both Cross Street and Chestnut Street, to provide for dedicated right turns, left turns, and thru traffic. The realignment will allow for left turns in both directions at the same time. This new traffic pattern is expected to have a great impact of traffic flow at this intersection.
• Locust street – To alleviate traffic coming off Route 70, a new right turning lane will be added on Locust Street westbound for traffic turning onto Route 9 northbound
• Many gaps of the sidewalks will be filled in. Many current sidewalks will be widened to 5 feet.
• The project also includes installation of 3 stormwater management basins in Lakewood, north of the Route 70 westbound ramp (across from an existing basin), and on Route 9 northbound, north of Buttell Avenue, and south of Henry Street.
Impacts on local traffic will be minimized by dividing the project into 3 sections. The intent is to complete each stage before moving onto the next area of construction. A series of one-way detours for Route 9 northbound or Route 9 southbound will accommodate work on the east or west side of the roadway during each side of construction. In all 3 stages, numerous utility poles, located on both sides of the road, must be moved prior to construction.
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.
As earlier reported on LNN, Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles is urging property owners to donate their rights-of-way to the state in order to expedite this project as much as possible.
As of now, NJDOT expects to award the construction project in spring 2022 and begin construction in summer 2022, an agency spokesperson told LNN. New Jersey American Water is planning on soon beginning a water main project along Route 9 from Locust Street to West Kennedy Boulevard. That project will be completed in phases. A DOT spokesperson told LNN that they are coordinating with New Jersey American Water to ensure that their water main work does not conflict with their project.
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 entire 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 resources…” (See full letter below).