Walking each day, I see the traffic congestion on Main Street, Watchung Avenue, and North Passaic Avenue, among others. Council Meeting minutes dating to the 1920’s show traffic as the most often mentioned topic during public comment. It was the reason the DL&W Railroad raised its tracks so they wouldn’t interfere with vehicular traffic.
Today, phone apps, such as Waze, exacerbate traffic on nearby side streets. This is a pedestrian safety issue too, especially with cut-through traffic that bypasses Main Street along routes where children walk to and from school with many drivers distracted by their cell phone.
Mayor Kobylarz had planned to engage a consultant to perform a comprehensive traffic flow analysis examining our streets through the lens of a systems engineering framework. Currently, traffic studies are paid for by developers or the State/County whenever their roads are involved. But treating traffic issues piecemeal results in “traffic whack-a-mole” whereby the problem is shunted onto other neighboring streets. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has delayed any study because traffic patterns have lessened. However, we remain committed to performing a study to advise us of proposed solutions, including traffic calming measures and, in some cases, revised traffic rules that will result in more efficient traffic flow patterns.
We need to redouble our efforts at having another exit ramp on Route 24, somewhere between the existing ramps in Summit and Florham Park (a 6.6-mile stretch) but outside of the Borough. Admittedly, this is a difficult climb; but, it is a battle worth fighting. In the meantime, we’ll insist the State make permanent the electric signs providing drive times to Route 287. We’ll continue to push the State and County to install “smart traffic signals” along Main Street and Watchung Avenue. This is a traffic control system that combines sensors and artificial intelligence with traditional traffic lights to manage vehicular and pedestrian flow.
Some have suggested widening Route 24 as a solution. I reject that notion as you cannot build your way out of congestion. Yes, adding another lane each way on Route 24 may solve the problem for a week or so; but wider roads attract vehicles and you still have the same problem you were trying to solve. The bottleneck exists at the last exit on Route 24 for Route 287 North
and South. Only in New Jersey can a DOT engineer design a two-lane highway that reduces to a one-lane exit to get onto perhaps the most widely used interstate in New Jersey - Route 287. That exit would benefit from being widened to a two or three-lane exit ramp. That will prevent the bottleneck from backing up traffic from Morristown to Short Hills.
Another suggestion I’ve made to the County and State is to build a flyover at the Short Hills Mall exit onto JFK Parkway to shunt traffic onto Columbia Turnpike which is generally flowing at its speed limit of 50 mph and gives drivers access to Florham Park and other communities with the ability to access Route 287. That would take a noticeable amount of traffic off our Main Street.