After years of litigation and other delays, a proposed Hampton Inn at Red Bank’s northern gateway returned to the borough planning board Monday night — and quickly ran into opposition.
Board member Guy Maratta sharply criticized a plan to allow vehicles to turn left into the Route 35 site across two lanes of southbound traffic that he said averages 60 miles per hour.
“Somebody is going to die, mark my words,” Maratta told the traffic engineer for the applicant, Rbank Capital.
“Someone’s going to die” if vehicles are allowed to enter the hotel site from northbound Route 35, said board member Guy Maratta, above. Below, a site plan shown during the hearing, with Route 35 along the bottom edge of the property. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
In the several years since it was derailed by lawsuits, Rbank had modified its access and egress plan. In the latest version, vehicles would exit the site only by turning right toward Bridge Avenue and Rector Place; left turns onto northbound Route 35 would be prohibited, a change that satisfied safety concerns previously raised by board members.
Entry into and exits from the site, formerly an Exxon station, would be via a single driveway near the foot of Cooper’s Bridge, an engineer said. And the New Jersey Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the roadway on which the triangular one-acre property fronts, has given the green light to allow northbound traffic to queue up in the center of five lanes to make a left turn into the hotel, said traffic planner Gary Dean.
The turning lane could easily be created in the center of the roadway, he said. “The width is there, the striping is there and the paving is there,” he said. He said up to three vehicles at a time could queue up there.
But just as allowing vehicles to head northbound out of the site would be dangerous, “I think it’s equally dangerous” to permit left turns in, Maratta told Dean.
“I think it would be detrimental to the public,” he said, his voice rising. “People are going to get hurt. Somebody’s going to die, mark my words.”
Maratta said his heels were “dug in tight” on the issue. And he appeared to get some support from Mayor Pasquale Menna, who asked if there was a single place along Route 35 north of the bridge to the Garden State Parkway where left turns are permitted.
Dean said he was unaware of any because the roadway has a barrier along that stretch of some 14 miles — but the section in front of the Exxon station does not, because “the DOT permits a left turn,” he said and had specifically approved this plan.
The board agreed to reach out to police Chief Darren McConnell for his opinion on the traffic safety issue.
The hearing also featured testimony about plans for a 152-foot-long boardwalk with public access along the Navesink River.
Plans for the six-story, 76-room structure were filed in 2011. But hearings discontinued in 2013 in the midst of litigation, and only an informal presentation has been held since last January, when the last legal obstacle to the proposal was knocked down in Rbank’s favor.
The board wrapped up nearly two and half hours of testimony with additional witnesses for the applicant still to be heard. The hearing is scheduled to resume December 19.