“The project started because we have a left entry ramp from 78 East to 287 North,” said NJDOT project manager Zoila Mejia-Aragona. “Traffic weaves across four lanes to get to exit 22, and they have to fight with traffic from 78 West.”
In addition, Mejia-Aragona said, the NJDOT wanted to find a solution for the long queue of cars that always occurs off exit 22 in Bedminster, getting onto Route 202/206. She said there is currently no acceleration lane there.
Mejia-Aragona and her team presented the proposal at a public information session Wednesday at the Bedminster Municipal Building. It was the first session, with another one planned around May 2016.
According to Mejia-Aragona, they are proposing an elimination of the left side entry from Route 78 East to Route 287 North, and replacing it with a loop ramp that will come in from the right side, entering into Route 287 traffic on the way to exit 22.
This would eliminate the need for vehicles to travel across four lanes in a span of seconds if they are looking to exit the highway at Route 202/206.
In addition, Mejia-Aragona said, the ramp to Route 202/206 from Route 287 will be moved further north to allow vehicles more storage in a new 15-foot acceleration lane for a free-flow condition entering onto the roadway in Bedminster.
“There will also be two new bridges on the loop ramp,” she said. “And we will be starting [the ramp] further west, with a split lane dedicated to the 287 Northbound entrance.”
Mejia-Aragona said the work being done will not require the widening of the road in any location.
“This work addresses all the weaving, and a lot of crashes that are reported in that area,” she said.
Most of the work is being done in Bedminster, although the NJDOT is planning to move the ramp from Route 287 North to Route 78 East a little further south to accommodate the new loop ramp, which will bring it more into Bridgewater.
“But this is not just an improvement for this area, it is regional,” Mejia-Aragona said.
Mejia-Aragona said the estimated cost of the project is $32 million, and the plan is to award a contract in February 2016, with an anticipated start in spring 2016. The project will take about two years to complete.
Mejia-Aragona said this project comes after more than 10 years of study and gathering of funding to move forward.
In addition, Mejia-Aragona said, the work will not require many lane closures along the two highways, aside from the closing of a section of the ramp from Route 78 East to Route 287 North on two weekends during the work.
“There will be a detour on a ramp that is not currently being used,” she said.
Mejia-Aragona said the project has required an incredible number of permits, engineering designs and more to make it happen.
“It takes time and coordination with stakeholders,” she said. “I think there has been a positive reaction to the project.”