Already a nettlesome fact of life for local commuters, travel between Shrewsbury and Little Silver is about to get downright ugly.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Starting after the morning rush on Thursday, July 7, NJ Transit plans to close the grade crossing at Sycamore and Branch avenues for up to two weeks for rail replacement and other improvements.
That will present a significant test of driver fortitude and something of a challenge to Little Silver’s 16-person police department.
“You can cripple Little Silver when you close that crossing,” says police Chief Dan Shaffery.
That’s because the nearest east-west alternative, almost a mile away, is White Road, a two-lane thoroughfare notorious for backups at both ends: Route 35/Broad Street, where even with a green light, the line of cars sometimes remains motionless; and Branch Avenue, where left-turning traffic often produces long queues of idling vehicles.
With the addition of traffic that normally uses Sycamore Avenue, “commuters are going to be really inconvenienced,” says Lieutenant Gary LaBruno, who heads the department’s traffic safety unit.
Here’s the upshot of the shutdown:
Traffic heading eastbound on Sycamore will be funneled past the Little Silver train station onto one-way Ayres Lane, resulting in a likely crawl through a bottleneck at peak times. And because the access to the commuter parking lot is on Ayres, train riders who don’t live west of the rail line will first have to make their way over there.
There’s no plan to lift the ban on left turns from Ayres onto Branch. “They will be summonsed if we catching them making the left,” LaBruno says of short-cutters. Instead, motorists intending to head north will be detoured down Oceanport Avenue to Silverside Avenue, then onto Conover Place and Eastview Avenue, whereupon they’ll return to Branch.
The real slog will be heading westbound. Traffic that normally travels Sycamore will be diverted to White Road, with the exception of vehicles over four tons, which aren’t permitted except to make deliveries and pickups on White, so police will direct them to Pinckney Road, LaBruno says.
To handle the mess, Little Silver plans to have officers at four locations from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays: Silverside and Oceanport; White and Branch; Rumson Road and Branch; and Pinckney and Branch.
LaBruno says one key to making the two-week ordeal easier is having motorists plan ahead and exercise restraint.
“People should expect delays,” he says. “Certainly, patience helps, because when people get antsy, they take the chances.” And even fender-benders could throw a wrench into the works, he says.