The Morris County Planning Department unveiled Tuesday preliminary plans to address traffic congestion issues along East Hanover Avenue through Hanover Township, Morris Township and Morris Plains.
The draft plans call for a combination of adding turning lanes at several intersections, sidewalks along the north side of East Hanover, bus pull-off stops, a multi-use path and adjustments to the the timing of lights from Speedwell Avenue in Morris Plains to Whippany Road in Morris Township.
The changes could reduce long waits at key intersections during the morning and evening rush hours—some as much as by several minutes, officials said.
Nearly 50 residents, business owners and officials attended the session at the Morris County Public Safety Academy in Parsippany. Traffic Engineer Adam Catherine from Stantec Consulting Services Inc., the county’s consultant on the study, said an effort was made in creating three alternatives to include all modes of transportation along the busy roadway: motor vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle and public transportation.
The final draft plan, at an estimated cost of $5.5 million, includes new turning lanes at Speedwell Avenue and at the intersection of Martin Luther King Avenue and Horsehill Road; retimed lights at East Hanover Avenue and Whippany Road; additional turning lanes at Horsehill where a ShopRite grocery store is planned in Hanover Township; an additional lane near Ridgedale and East Hanover avenues where a big box home store, also in Hanover Township, is planned; sidewalks on the north side of the road, a multi-use pathway that would make it easier for walkers and bikers; several new crosswalks, and bus pull-offs for transit riders.
“East Hanover offered a challenge because of the multiple uses of commercial, residential and cultural,” Catherine said. Besides many businesses, there are numerous homes along East Hanover Avenue, and the side roads feed busy neighborhoods, he said. In addition, Morris County has several facilities along East Hanover Avenue: the county library, Frelinghuysen Arboretum, the county garage and Mennen Arena. The improvements, especially for pedestrians and bikers, could make it easier to use the county facilities, he said.
The study was initiated last year after Hanover rezoned its stretch of East Hanover Avenue from light industrial to commercial/retail to encourage the reuse of vacant properties. That change provides a challenge in designing traffic solutions, Catherine said.
As a result, the study focuses on short-term solutions that could reasonably be done by 2015, during a time when the commercial sites are being redeveloped, and other solutions that could be done by 2035.
Some of the planned changes to East Hanover Avenue are directly related to the construction of the new retail sites, Catherine said. As a result, some of the improvements between Horsehill Road and Ridgedale Avenue will be paid for by the developers.
While the intersection with Speedwell Avenue is the “linchpin” to addressing some of the longest traffic delays along East Hanover Avenue, the proposed plan at present includes just some traffic signal adjustments to enable faster traffic flow east and west.
Because Speedwell Avenue is also a state highway—Route 202—long term plans to widen the intersection or add turning lanes require involvement and approval from the state, Catherine said. Those plans would most likely involve the need to purchase some of the corner properties at that intersection.
That is similar to the situation at Whippany Road and East Hanover Avenue, which also includes a ramp to Route 24. Long-term plans for that intersection also would need to involve the state, he said.
As it is, Catherine said, because the state controls the traffic signal there, the county needs state approval to retime those lights to create more east-west traffic flow.
Many attendees asked questions about specific properties or neighborhoods, including St. Virgil’s Roman Catholic Church in Morris Plains, the homes on East Hanover Avenue near Monroe Street and Ridgedale Avenue where the new retail stores are planned to open.
Some in attendance asked why the study was not extended to include the neighborhoods west of Speedwell Avenue. Christine Marion, the county’s planning director, said a study of the West Hanover Avenue corridor would be larger and more extensive and would need to include an origination and destination study of commuters from places on that side of the main artery, like Randolph Township.
The East Hanover Corridor Study report can be viewed and downloaded on the Morris County Division of Transportation website. Copies of the report also are available for viewing at the Morris County Library, Morris Plains Borough Clerk’s Office, Morris Township Clerk’s Office, Hanover Township Clerk’s Office, and the Morris County Department of Planning & Development in Morristown.
Comments may be submitted through Dec. 31. The final plan would include responses to those comments, Catherine said.