CHATHAM, NJ - The initiative of resident Fran Drew and the resolve of the mayor and council produced the birth of a plan to press the county and state for solutions to the long-standing traffic congestion on Main Street at the Borough of Chatham Council meeting held Monday night.
A formal resolution asking for a solution to the problem appears to be the first step that will be taken toward alleviating the traffic problem on Main Street.
The subject of traffic transitioned into the public portion of the meeting when Drew shared a letter she sent to the county division of transportation and engineering on May 18. Drew explained in her letter the mistake she identified as the source of the traffic problems in Chatham.
"This condition is the result of mistake made by the mayor of Chatham 30 years ago," Drew said. "At that time, the mayor acceded to the mayor of Madison, who did not want the traffic from the Route 24 interchange dumping traffic in Madison onto Ridgedale Avenue or nearby."
Drew noted that two days later she sent her letter, she received phone calls from two county officials, advising her to urge the mayor and council to pass a resolution asking for a solution, and then following up with a letter to Gov. Christie and the commissioner of the DOT.
Before Drew spoke, Mayor Bruce Harris and council member James Collander pressed Morris County Freeholders Kathy DeFillippo and Doug Cabana, who were in attendance, about the opening of exits in Madison that would alleviate the overburdened streets of Chatham, where Route 24 traffic pours onto Main Street and leads to Madison and beyond.
The mayor pointed out that there had been a meeting involving Madison and Florham Park about the problem of no exits from Route 24 and Chatham had not been invited to the meeting.
"My position on that is we should certainly be invited to the table so we can help decide the issue," Council president Gerald Helfrich said.
Freeholder DeFillippo acknowledged that Chatham was affected and should be part of future talks on the subject.
"We are really choked with traffic," Harris said. "We have to do something. I don't know what the solution is, but the traffic is really crushing the town in general, especially our downtown."
Collander pointed out how unhealthy it is to breathe the pollution generated from the cars on Main Street.
"This is the start line, going East to West, this is where it begins," Collander said. "It's a conga line here up through Madison. At 3 o'clock you just can't move in town. Quite frankly, we are going to approach you as well as the state and we would like to have this whole situation reviewed. There has to be some solution over time to bleed some of this traffic off this road and access point."
According to council member John Holman. there is 5.6 miles between the Chatham exit from Route 24 and the next exit, which is in Morristown. If you miss the Chatham/Summit exit, there isn't another exit until Morristown.
"We're probably not going to be on the top (of the state's) to-do list, but we have to regenerate ourselves and go back to the well again and ask for some help from the county and up to the state level.," Collander said. "We need some form of relief. We have 30,000 cars going through town each day."
Drew, who had brought up the subject to the mayor and council in May, volunteered to help move the issue forward.