BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The more the Center of Excellence is discussed, the more it seems that Bridgewater Township residents are willing to publicly air their concerns about increased traffic that they believe will result from that ambitious development project.
Donald Doyle, who has lived in town for almost 30 years, was the first to take the podium April 11 to voice his worries.
“It’s bumper to bumper every morning,” he said of traffic in the Route 202/206 corridor where the Center of Excellence would be built.
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He explained that the project would add hundreds of vehicles, traveling in both directions, with the situation exacerbated even more by the nearby construction of a mosque plus a temple garage, and he hoped the township would go back and reconsider the circumstances.
The Center of Excellence, which would be located at Route 202/206, is actually the former Sanofi Aventis site. It would include 400 rental apartment units, plus retail shops, restaurants, a hotel and a supermarket. The Center’s application has been before the town planning board for some time now, but is expected to return to the council when it is done there.
Geraldine Straub, who had previously appeared before the council to express her displeasure with the potential increased traffic, returned last week to say that she didn’t believe the project was “appropriate for that area.”
Michael Kirsh commented on traffic woes at Milltown and Vanderveer roads, and invited council members to check the situation out for themselves on weekdays between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
“Come visit my neighborhood,” he said.
Laura Whalen said she is against the Center of Excellence, and she asked the council to also be against it, as she added that any free land in town is being “hopped on by developers,” as she put it.
“We can’t pave the whole world,” she said.
She said she doesn’t care if there is a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program for the Center or not. She also said that development itself is creating problems for residents, and that there is more infrastructure in town that needs to be funded.
“What really matters is to pay for what we have in town, to keep it beautiful and preserve it,” Whalen said.
Later that evening, the council voted to deny the township’s interest, approval of or execution of a long term tax exemption financial agreement or PILOT of nearly 62 acres in all located on Route 202/206, or the Center of Excellence.
Andrew Fresco called the Center of Excellence project “a virus.” He also said that Preserve Bridgewater, which had a number of members in attendance that evening, was a “growing movement.”
“Do the right thing and put this to bed,” said Fresco of the Center.
He also questioned, as did council president Matthew Moench, where the supporters of the project were, or individuals who say it is a good thing for the community.
“Find a way to back out of this,” Fresco said.
Joe Grabler, a Bridgewater native who lives off Foothill Road, said there are no sidewalks on that road, and that he definitely knows what the traffic is like in that area.
“It’s increasing every year I’m here,” he said. “My main concern is traffic and safety.”
He also said that Foothill Road gets overflow traffic when Route 22 and/or Route 287 are backed up, from the firehouse to Finderne Avenue.
“Building (structures) seems to be increasing,” added Grabler. “It’s bringing in more traffic, without the road improvements to handle it.”
Judi Wolke also expressed concerns about traffic, and said drivers nowadays can't make a left turn at Bluestone Lane. She said the developer wants to add a left-turn lane, but that won’t help her make a left onto Route 202/206.
“Their solution really isn’t one,” she said.
Wolke also said that from Glen Eagles Drive to Muirfield Lane, there is only one way in or out, which would only be made worse, and even dangerous, with increased traffic impediments.
“If we need an ambulance or a fire truck, we’re dead,” she cautioned.
Longtime Bridgewater resident Mary Ann Zielinski, who had spoken before the council in March about the potential Center of Excellence traffic, said she didn’t want a left turn lane installed by Bluestone Lane, as one would then need to go across two lanes of traffic to head south on Route 202/206.
“It’s crazy,” she said, while later asking the council to find a solution. “There’s no way you’re able to make it so that people can get in and out when they need to. It’s insane.”
“It’s not good right now,” added resident Brian Hoffman of the traffic situation. “It’s going to be a disaster.”
He also asked what was the town’s priority, two to four years from the present, and if the township was now at a critical juncture.
Another town resident said he didn’t live near the Center of Excellence site, but remarked that the town didn’t need this particular development, and that residents could live without it.
Doyle appeared again before the council at its regular meeting on April 15 to ask the governing body to consider all road improvements, and to not allow groundbreaking on the Center of Excellence until the traffic situation has been studied and addressed. He also echoed Wolke’s point of how emergency vehicles wouldn’t be able to get past increased traffic in certain areas, and he felt the council wouldn’t want that burden on its shoulders.