TOMS RIVER – A long-sought widening of Route 9 is slated to begin in the spring of 2022. It aims to alleviate congestion in several difficult intersections.
The plan encompasses a length of the state highway starting just north of Indian Head Road in Toms River to just beyond 2nd Street in Lakewood.
The project is in the final design phase now, and letters are expected to go out in the fall to property owners for the state to acquire some property to make the road changes. For the most part, the state would be buying a sliver of land in order to widen it, said officials from Arora and Associates, the consulting engineers on the project. In some cases, entire lots would need to be purchased in order to put in stormwater retention basins.
The project is expected to cost $50 million, said David Hutchinson, project manager with Arora, who gave a presentation recently in Lakewood.
Any time a lane has to be closed for construction, it will be done at night, according to paperwork provided by the State Department of Transportation. It is expected to be finished in 2024.
Generally speaking, the project will be adding a two traffic signals in Lakewood, and address safety and traffic issues by adding turn lanes in key spots. There will also be milling and paving work done. Wider sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act would also be installed. Access points to and from properties on Route 9 would be improved to be made safer.
“We expect reductions in travel time,” Hutchinson said. There is a prediction of a decrease in travel times from 15 percent to 45 percent during peak hours.
There are a lot of intersections where the traffic pattern won’t change, such as on Cox Cro Road. However, throughout Route 9 there would be improvements in terms of such things as paving, drainage, curbs and sidewalks. Eight intersections would be widened, for example. There will also be two miles of sidewalks added.
The plans are still in the final design stage, and as it stands now, these are some of the changes proposed:
Route 9 northbound would be widened for the existing designated right turn lane onto Whitty Road.
Southbound Route 9 would be widened for the existing left turn lane onto Whitty Road.
Whitty Road’s westbound lane would be split into left and right turn lanes.
On northbound Route 9, there would be a right turn only lane added for drivers going east on Church Road.
On southbound Route 9, there would be a left turn only lane added for drivers going east on Church Road.
On Church Road, drivers heading west would have two lanes: a left turn only lane and a right turn only lane.
Locust Street (which links Route 70 to Route 9, passing the bowling alley) would be widened near the intersection with Route 9. One lane would go through and left. The other would go right (north on 9).
Honey Locust street, which meets Route 9 from the other direction, would be widened as well. A right turn only lane for people going south on 9 would be added.
Westbound on Chestnut would become three lanes: left, straight, and right.
Eastbound on Chestnut would become three lanes: left, straight, and right.
There would be significant changes near this area, where the big “Center of Town” shopping center is (formerly Chateau Grand and Winkelmann’s Restaurant). Chateau Drive would be realigned with a little curve to the south, so that it can meet Broadway at a new traffic signal there.
Chateau would have a left turn only lane at the intersection. So would Broadway.
Route 9 would be widened to have left turn only lanes for drivers going north and south.
Oak Street would get a new traffic signal.
Northbound Route 9 would be widened into three lanes: left, through, and right.
Southbound Route 9 would be widened to add a left turn only lane.
Oak Street westbound would have two lanes: right turn only, and left/through.
Just north of that, there is an intersection that is called River Avenue (even though Route 9 is also called River Avenue). That intersection would have left and right turn lanes coming out of the development.
Again, just north of that is Hadassah Lane. There would be a left turn only lane from Route 9 north into that development.
Left turn lanes would be added to Route 9 in both directions, so that drivers can make lefts onto Spruce from the north or south.
Spruce is just south of the hospital.
Pine Street/James Street
Pine Street would be realigned to meet James Street at a safer angle.
James Street would get a designated left turn lane onto Route 9 north.
Hurley Avenue/Central Avenue
This is the intersection by the lakes.
The southbound left turn lane would be eliminated. Instead, there would be a second northbound lane. The two remaining southbound lanes would be one through lane and one right turn only onto Central.
Where Central and South Lake Drive meet, there would also be changes. Driving west on Central, drivers can make a right onto South Lake. If you are driving on South Lake, you will only be able to make a right onto Central. You won’t be able to merge onto Central and then head to 9.
Similarly, people on Caranetta Drive will only be able to make right turns onto Central. They won’t be able to go left on Central.
On Route 9, the southbound left turning lane leading to Route 88 would be extended by 400 feet.
A concrete island would be installed on Route 9 at the intersection with 1st Street that would prevent anyone from making left turns onto Route 9 from either direction.
Despite people complaining about Route 9 for decades, these plans were presented at a meeting in the Lakewood Municipal Building which was attended by about a dozen people. Those who did attend said it was a long time coming.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Larry Grone, owner of Grone’s Wrecker and Recovery, on Route 9.
He said that there is a very high accident rate, especially drivers hitting pedestrians, and he hoped that these changes would help.
Bill Braden, chairman of the Ocean County Transportation Advisory Board, said he liked the changes overall. He still had some suggestions to make, and the representatives at the meeting were receptive to his ideas, such as looking at how some intersections might not give enough turn radius for big tractor trailers.
“There’s not only heavy traffic, but there’s heavy trucks,” so the road must be reinforced to give it a long lifespan, he said.
For years, he had suggested that the state buy up land for future expansion of Route 9, but the suggestion fell on deaf ears, he said. Now, the land is more expensive.
The state should buy up some land in places like Stafford where there will be more growth in the future, and the land prices haven’t boomed yet, he said.
A spokesman with the DOT said there is another project in a very early stage right now. This project would look at further widening and how to do it.