By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Even in a worst-case scenario, traffic in and out of the proposed Four Ponds development in Lincroft won’t have as big an impact on the area as neighbors fear, according to a traffic study presented to the Middletown Planning Board Wednesday night.
The 342-unit development, if approved, would be better traffic-wise for the town than a return to professional use of the 68-acre property on Middletown-Lincroft Road, said traffic consultant John Rea, of McDonough & Rea Associates in Manasquan. The site is the former home of business technology giant Avaya, where a vacant 352,000-square-foot building once housed a bustling tech industry until it was closed a few years ago.
“It has been used in the past, and it has generated higher traffic volumes than what is proposed today,” he said.
Members of the board, though, pushed back against a number of statistics Rea offered, saying traffic in that section of town can slow to a crawl and prompts travelers to seek shortcuts.
Rea’s 90-minute testimony, given in front of a packed meeting room with at least a dozen residents wearing the now-familiar white t-shirt with ‘342 Units’ struck through with a red slash, highlighted the area’s traffic history and what’s projected if the housing plan is approved.
Plans call for two entrances and exits: one on Middletown-Lincroft Road and another on West Front Street. Having those two access points efficiently distributes traffic, Rea said.
Rea said the firm conducted two types of studies on those streets over a week in March of last year. During peak morning and afternoon hours, he said, there would be an additional 158 cars in the morning and 197 in the afternoon moving in and out of the property on the two roads. If the property were still active with professional use, there would be about 565 “driving movements” in the morning peak hours and about 540 in the afternoon peak hours.
Additional delays to the already busy roadways would be “small, incremental delays,” Rea said.
But board chairman John Deus, who’s lived in Lincroft 36 years, said at the end of the day, the numbers from a traffic study don’t matter to those traveling.
“What we all do is look for the path of least resistance,” he said. “I know every shortcut and I know everybody else does, and they know how to use them. That’s what traffic studies don’t address.”
Rea’s firm did, though, and found that back road routes won’t see that much more activity than they do now.
Rick Brodsky, attorney for the developer, Four Ponds Associates, said his client would pay its fair share to implement whatever traffic-calming measures are necessary, such as speed bumps, humps or raised tables.
“Whatever Middletown Township decides is appropriate, and that would likely come from the township committee, we’ll consider it,” Brodsky said.
In wrapping up his testimony, Rea said if the town was looking for a location to put a development of this kind and have as little an impact on traffic as possible, “this appears to be a very good plan for it.”
“Spoken like a traffic engineer and not a resident,” Deus said.
The hearing on the proposal was continued to the board’s August 3 meeting, and if it doesn’t finish by that time, a special meeting may be called for late August so the board can soon come to a decision.