Residents Question How Cars Will Fit on Road if Mosque Built

Monday's planning board hearing concerning the Al Falah application for a mosque on Mountain Top Road completed the testimony of traffic engineer Gary Dean, who continued answering questions about the amount of traffic that will pass through the facility if it were to be built.

The Al Falah Center has put in an application for a mosque on the former Redwood Inn site on Mountain Top Road. Since January, the planning board has been hearing continued testimony from applicant experts. 

Much of the questioning concerned how multiple cars, and emergency vehicles, could fit side by side on Mountain Top Road and the other roads surrounding the proposed mosque.

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Dean said the width of the road near the site is 14 feet on the north side and 10 feet on the south side. In addition, Dean said, the center has included in its application a plan to widen the road on its own frontage.

"To the extent there is traffic now, people will circumvent," he said.

Resident Shiv Mallela questioned how Dean determined how many cars would be driving along Mountain Top Road, and how many would come to the intersection at Crim and Mine roads.

Dean said they estimated that about 42 cars would be on Mine Road in the course of one hour, leading to a possible delay of about 15 seconds for each car.

But Mallela disagreed.

"I am talking about service," he said. "People are not going to distribute over an hour. Your estimates are not matching my reality."

If people are coming to the mosque from their place of employment, particularly on Friday afternoons Mallela said, they will not be hanging around after services. So, he said, many cars could be leaving all at once.

"When I think of an event letting out, it's a burst of traffic," he said.

Dean emphasized that only 170 cars are able to park in the parking lot, and that is how many are expected to be on the site, although he did do a study that extends that to 260 vehicles, and the traffic was still not impacted. But, he said, he does not expect more than 170 vehicles to be on the property at any one time.

In addition, Mallela questioned the impact of cars parked on the streets, around the proposed mosque, which are allowed by township ordinance.

"When we did the study, cars were not parked there," Dean said. "I would assume if you are having your driveway sealed or guests over, people will park there. There is more than enough room on the street."

Resident Joseph Avenoso said he was jogging on Mountain Top Road, and cars were unable to pass him, driving side by side, without moving further to the side of the road.

"There was a blind turn and barely any room to let me run," he said. "If they have to move for me, how will you account for this? There is no room for cars parked."

In addition, Avenoso said, he doesn't understand how an emergency vehicle could get through if cars were parked on the side of the road.

Bridgewater resident Kristen Bobowicz questioned what was meant by the idea that cars will leave if the lot is full.

"Will they go on the side of the road?" she asked.

Dean said he cannot predict where they will park, but the premise that so many will show up is contrary to previous testimony. Testimony from those with the center have stated that there will not be more than 170 vehicles showing up on the site, in fact there will probably be much less based on past experience of attendees at services.

Bobowicz said she doesn't understand how the road can handle the kind of additional traffic being predicted.

"The applicant is increasing the frontage, but that is only in front of the building," she said. "There is a blind curve. It can't handle the widening on one side because of the cliff, and the other side they don't own."

"Right now it can handle the traffic, but not then," she added.

Testimony will continue with the next witness from the Al Falah Center June 30 at 7 p.m. at the Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

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