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I-95 Projects May Take Toll on Northeast

I-95 Projects May Take Toll on Northeast

I-95 expected to widen in NJ, possible tolls in CT

Today New Jersey Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey announced plans to add more travel lanes going north- and southbound along a 20.1-mile stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike between Exit 8A and Exit 6, where that stretch of I-95 connects with the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

This Turnpike section has gained a notorious reputation— earning the nickname “the bottleneck”— for having two truck/bus lanes merge into three car lanes. An estimated 120,000 drivers a day travel this stretch in both directions. Aggravating this is a rest area off the merging Southbound lanes, which adds yet another merging lane as vehicles leave the stop.

“Traffic is at capacity on certain days in the Exit 8A area with the conversion of lanes and people going back into the lanes from the rest area,” Gail Toth spokesperson for the New Jersey Motor Truck Assn. (NJMTA) told Fleet Owner. “It jams up traffic. And on Fridays in the summer, forget about it— it’s a nightmare.”

According to Toth, the project is expected to extend the existing truck lanes so that the larger vehicles wouldn’t be forced to merge within that stretch. New Jersey Dept. of Transportation officials declined to comment on the details of this project, pending the scheduled announcement by Codey.

Toth said that the trucking industry is willing to incur a portion of the costs— likely to be leveraged through tolls or fuel taxes. But there are no immediate plans to implement tolls to fund the project, Toth said.

The widening of the turnpike is expected to be completed as early as 2011, which would coincide with Pennsylvania’s plans to complete a new interchange off the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This interchange is expected to bring more traffic to the New Jersey Turnpike.

“If we don’t act, over the next several years traffic growth in New Jersey, combined with a planned project in Pennsylvania to add a full-access interchange between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the New Jersey Turnpike, will cause virtual gridlock,” Acting Governor Codey said.

But even without factoring in the interchange, Toth said the urgency for this project had long been apparent. Along Exit 8A a chain of large distribution centers have replaced the rural farmlands that once sat off the highway that runs through the Garden State, Toth noted, bringing in yet more truck traffic.

“Some of these distribution centers have 300 doors, and are large Northeast regional centers,” Toth said. “There are also some mega-housing developments in that area now, and very limited options for public transportation.”

Separately, Connecticut transportation officials are showing renewed interest in getting tolls back on the Connecticut Turnpike, also part of I-95. The Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area, an agency that influences the state’s transportation policies, has backed a study on how tolls would affect congestion along the I-95 corridor that connects the state to New York and Boston.

The envisioned system would scale the charge of the tolls so that it would discourage excessive traffic during peak hours, and vice versa, reported Connecticut Post Online today.

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