HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The long-awaited opening of the Route 206 Peter J. Biondi Bypass, first conceived in the 1970s, is less than one month away.
The state Department of Transportation has notified township officials that the ribbon cutting for the four-lane highway has been scheduled for June 5th.
"It's actually going to happen; we've literally been waiting decades for this," said Mayor Shawn Lipani, the owner of Central Jersey Nurseries, which overlooks a stretch of the new highway at its northern end near Old Somerville Road.
In August 2010, township, local and state officials broke ground to officially start construction of the mid-section of the bypass.
Nearly three years later, on July 18, 2013, Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill officially renaming the roadway to the "Peter J. Biondi Bypass," in honor of the late state Assemblyman and Hillsborough Mayor Peter J. Biondi. An official dedication and road opening occurred later that same year in October.
The project languished for several years after that due to a shortage of federal and state transportation construction funding but resumed in 2017 after New Jersey lawmakers approved an increase in the state gasoline tax which finances the state Transportation Fund.
Total cost for the three-phase project has been estimated at $100 million.
The Biondi Bypass will shift traffic on to a new 3.6-mi. section of U.S. 206 to the east of the existing highway between Mountain View Road and Old Somerville Road. This will create opportunities for the development of a town center along the current U.S. 206 through Hillsborough.
The bypass was built to help alleviate the chronic knots of traffic between Somerville and Montgomery that plague the state highway, which handles 30,000 vehicles daily, according to the NJDOT.
A by-product of the shift in traffic will enable the township to refocus on creation of a passive, less-trafficked downtown retail and restaurant district along the existing state highway, according to Lipani.
"The bypass, once open, will allow that conversation to resume," Lipani said.
Completion of the bypass, built in three phases comes as construction continues on a stretch of Route 206 between Doctor's Way and Valley Road, which will also be widened to four lanes as well as a redesign of three existing traffic signals and replacement of the bridge over the Royce Brook. Work began last year in October, with Gov. Phil Murphy joining state and local officials for an "official" groundbreaking last month.
The 1 mi. stretch of U.S. 206 between Valley Road and Brown Avenue will be widened to four lanes while eliminating left turn movements by constructing a concrete center median, in addition to building jug handles for U-turn movements at new signalized intersections including Brown Avenue and Camplain Road. New stormwater retention basins are also being constructed.
The final phase will be to replace the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge over U.S. 206 between Camplain Road and Brown Avenue and perform associated track work.
The construction and bridge improvements will be completed in stages to maintain two-way directional traffic and allow access to all properties throughout the duration of the construction project, according to the NJDOT.
"U.S. 206 has an average daily traffic volume of approximately 30,000 vehicles per day. These traffic volumes are very high for a two-lane roadway and major delays in traffic flow are currently experienced during peak travel times. The project corridor also has a high number of residential and commercial access points along both sides of [the roadway]," said Meredith Hammond, manager of NJDOT Community Relations.