NJ DOT – Reconsider the widening of Route 9 from Lakewood to Toms River

OCEAN COUNTY officials say recent notification that Route 9 from Lakewood to Toms River will not be widened needs to immediately be reconsidered by the state Department of Transportation.

“We cannot believe that even after the completion of a study of this area of Route 9 clearly shows widening will greatly improve safety and traffic flow on this road – a major corridor in Ocean County – we have again been told by the state it’s not going to happen,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “We are calling on the NJDOT to fund the major improvement project as this is the help we need to bring this important corridor into the current century.”

The Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a resolution at its June 17 Board meeting calling on the state to reconsider its decision and move ahead with the reconstruction and widening of this highway which remains mostly one lane north and one lane south.

“The major improvements including widening the road and adding new lanes, is the work that is necessary to upgrade the Route 9 corridor to finally meet the needs of the fastest growing areas of Ocean County,” said Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, who is liaison to the Ocean County Engineering Department. “Clearly abandoning the larger scope of this proposal does nothing but exacerbate further a critical transportation problem that is being experienced daily on this roadway.”

The state is proposing to do pavement upgrades and some low cost, high impact intersection improvements to the corridor.

“This amounts to nothing short of basic maintenance for this road and should have been done all along,” Kelly said.

Other than Route 9, motorists in Ocean County have the Garden State Parkway for north south travel use including for work, medical appointments and public safety evacuations. However, Route 9 provides access to all local roads and is the most heavily used corridor in Ocean County.

“Route 9 in Ocean County has not been widened or drastically improved since the days of the stagecoach,” Vicari said. “This particular area – between Lakewood and Toms River – is our fastest growing area and the decision to not do the major widening improvements creates nothing more than additional hazards brought on by unprecedented congestion all filtered into two lanes – one north, one south.

“Our continuing requests to improve a major highway in Ocean County are not unreasonable and yet they continue to be unheard by the state agencies charged with overseeing the maintenance of this roadway,” he said. “Whereas the state of New Jersey appears perfectly content with taking the hard earned money of Ocean County motorists and commuters through its toll hike increases, gas taxes and the like, it cannot seem to help Ocean County by providing major improvements to the state’s badly maintained and often fraught with safety concerns corridor.”

Ocean County officials say there is a growing concern of what the future will hold for this area without major improvements to Route 9.

“Ocean County can no longer wait for these types of improvements to come to Route 9,” Vicari said. “The continuing growth, the congestion, the accidents, will not wait for the state to finally decide that keeping Ocean County drivers and pedestrians safe on this road should be considered a priority.”

Ocean County is calling upon the DOT to reconsider its decision and is strongly urging the support of the state legislators representing Ocean County to petition the DOT to get this project underway.