BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Somerset County is planning a widening of Washington Valley Road, from Chimney Rock Road to 700 feet east of Eastbrook Road, in Bridgewater.

Representatives from the county presented the plan to residents at the Martinsville Community Center Aug. 16.

The project was first presented in 2014 with a public information meeting, and is expected to move forward in 2017.

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 “This section has never seen this level of engineering before,” said Tricia Smith, county project manager on the reconstruction.

Smith said the roadway is currently 25 feet wide, with two travel lanes and no shoulders on the road. The speed limit is 30 miles per hour in the business area, 35 miles per hour out to Vosseller Avenue and 40 miles per hour as drivers head to Warren.

In addition, Smith said, there is a great deal of sight line restriction where Van Nest Drive, Laurel Avenue, Vosseller Avenue and Eastbrook Road intersect with Washington Valley Road.

“Drivers should be able to see twice as far as they do,” she said.

Smith said, the road currently slopes north to south, causing water to flow down and make the roadway, and driveways off Washington Valley Road, slippery.

Plus, Smith said, the road is also in need of shoulders on both sides, which are good for pedestrians walking, provide places for water to flow into gutters, allow for emergency pull offs and more.

The proposed project is to widen the road to 30 feet, with two 11-foot lanes in both directions and two 4-foot wide shoulders on both sides.

The goals, Smith said, are to eliminate site restrictions, create a consistent crown in the roadway, stabilize the road structure, upgrade the storm drainage and widen Washington Valley Road for a left turn lane at Vosseller Avenue.

As part of the project, Smith said, each driveway on Washington Valley Road will get an asphalt apron at the end.

“It provides a level area at the roadway, so if the driveway is steep, it gives a level area to see and be able to pull into the roadway,” she said.

Smith said there will be storm sewers throughout and the county will be building all new pipes.

In addition to the roadwork, the county will be upgrading the traffic signal at Chimney Rock Road and Washington Valley Road, which will have video detection for dedicated turning lanes, as well as pedestrian push buttons. There will also be a separate right turn lane from Washington Valley Road to Chimney Rock Road.

Smith said that to move forward with the project, the county was required to acquire some property rights. They spoke to 44 property owners, with 10 requiring permanent easements and 28 requiring temporary ones.

Smith said those property owners who have not heard from the county at this time should not expect to with regard to the project.

The estimated construction time for the project is March through December 2017. Because the road will have to be closed, the plan is to break it up into two phases, with one side of Van Nest Drive done first, then Washington Valley Road on the other side done second.

Phase one is expected to take about four months, phase two will take three months and the final two months will be the replacement of the traffic light.

“Because of the regrading, we have to excavate most of the road, and we will be digging 18 inches to 2 feet in some places,” Smith said. “There will be detours for regional traffic and the roadway will be closed for the duration. Local streets will have to be used.”

Initial questions from residents about the project concerned the detours, and how people will be able to get to their homes on Washington Valley Road, as well as to the businesses on the road.

Smith said there will be stone placed on the road toward the end of the workday, around 4 p.m., each day, so that there is no bare road overnight and residents can return to their driveways.

There will also, Smith said, be signs letting drivers know that the businesses are open during construction, and they will work with the township police in advance to ensure that emergency vehicles have access to homes and businesses along the construction route.

Residents also questioned how the speed will be maintained, expressing concerns that improving the road will turn Washington Valley Road into a freeway and have people speeding through town.

Smith said the new road is designed for the speed limits that are currently advertised on the road.

“That sets the design for the line of sight and more,” she said.

But, Smith said, they cannot currently change the speed limit or make other changes because of the type of road Washington Valley Road is.

“It takes people between townships,” she said. “It has to be designed for the speeds people travel.”

“We cannot put in speed humps or any other restrictions,” she added. “It cannot become a local road, it is an intercounty road. We have the bare minimum speed allowed for an arterial road for commerce.”

As for handling speeding on the road for the future, Smith said, more enforcement could be a big deterrent, and Bridgewater Township Mayor Dan Hayes said it is something they will look into.

Residents also expressed concerns about the look of the road, saying they would like any trees that are taken down to be replaced, even on county-owned right of ways. Many said they believe they are losing the feeling of the area with so many trees being cut down to widen the road.

Hayes said the township planner will propose a concept plan to the county for replacing any lost trees.

Representatives from the county said they will take all the comments and concerns from residents and continue to work on the plans. The expectation is go to bid for the work in December.