MAYOR: BRIDGE JOB MAY RE-LIGHT DEBATE


A traffic detour, in purple above, is expected to last at least seven months during the replacement of a bridge on Seven Bridges Road, below.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A bridge-replacement project in Little Silver that’s expected to take up to nine months could jam up a pair of intersections more than a mile away starting in July.

That, in turn, may also reinvigorate a dormant debate over whether those intersections are long overdue for traffic signals, Mayor Bob Neff tells redbankgreen.

The detour involves the installation of a temporary light at Branch Avenue and White Road, above, and another at Branch and Rumson Road. (Click to enlarge)

The replacement of a small, timber bridge on Seven Bridges Road just north of the Little Silver Point Road intersection is scheduled to begin shortly after the July 4 holiday, officials said. A concrete span with 12-foot lanes, three-foot shoulders and a six-foot pedestrian walkway on the westerly side will be installed in the $2.7 million project.

The work, originally scheduled to begin in 2008, has been repeatedly delayed.

Neff said that as part of the traffic-control portion of the project, the county will install temporary traffic lights at two locations on Branch Avenue: at the intersection of White Road, and at the intersection of Rumson Road, just yards away. That’s to accommodate an expected increase in volume caused by the closure of Seven Bridges at its northern (Rumson Road) and southern (Silverwhite Avenue) ends, as well as at the eastern ends of Kings Road and Point Road.

Residents whose homes can only be accessed via Seven Bridges will be permitted to bypass closure signs, but the bridge will remained closed to all but pedestrian and bike traffic for most of the duration.

But the installation of the lights prompts the question: why not make them permanent?

That turns out to be a live wire line of inquiry, said Neff. Hearings on the bridge “before my time on the council” some six years ago stirred up passions pro and con, he said.

The borough “held huge hearings, well-attended enough that one had to be moved to the Markham Place School,” he said.

And then, as he expects today, “you had people who want no traffic lights, people who had wanted traffic lights for years before this project came up, and people in the middle. The conclusion was the best way to do it was to go with temporary lights.”

Now, he said, “this discussion has started again: should we make these lights permanent?”

One one side are commuters who lament the difficulty of making left turns off Rumson and White roads, backing up vehicles on each at rush hours. On the other are those who see the lights as unnecessary and likely to adversely impact property values near the intersections.

The temporary lights should be a good test of whether the signals should become permanent, Neff said.

“Perhaps the use of the temporary lights will give us some idea of whether they might be workable,” he said, though the detour may be seem as exaggerating the extent of the problem, he notes.

In any event, the question of permanent signals “is a county issue, because it’s a county road,” he said of Branch.

Officials from the Monmouth County Engineer’s office could not be reached for comment.

Little Silver has asked the county to install the temporary lights during late-night hours to prevent further traffic congestion and to minimize the number of police officers required to direct traffic, Neff said.