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Redevelopment Plans Spur East Hanover Ave. Study

County traffic officials held public meeting at the Morris County Public Safety Academy.

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.

Richard December 13, 2012 at 01:05 PM
All the houses along Hanover Ave should be ripped down and the road should be widened. Create more traffic lanes and invite more cars to use our town as a thruway.
Sally Beck December 13, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I would love to know why Hanover backs up from Speedwell to American Way beginning at 3:30 pm every work day. Does Mennen get out at that time? I hope they realize that's when rush hour starts in that area.
Al Krotoff December 13, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Yes, splendid idea! Also, the same should be done for Stiles Rd. in Morris Plains, to keep in same thought process. But the sound barriers might cost a little bit. Ah, what the hell! That's a small price to pay for this progress!
Richard December 13, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Yes and maybe some large billboard advertising, to take advantage of the increased commuter traffic?? Folks in the surrounding streets could set up lemonade stands to service the increased number of cars that try to cut through their neighborhoods. The bottom line is: We need more cars!
Marcy Needle December 13, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Love the fact that alternative modes of transportation are included. Get on your bike or walk! Leave your car at home some of the time.
Richard December 13, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Yes indeed: Walking and biking are options for us townies. It would be great to be able to bike to the store. Unfortunately the heart of the problem is commuter traffic. What are the odds that they'll switch to bicycles?
val December 13, 2012 at 08:37 PM
The thru traffic on Speedwell/202 should not have to endure further delays. East Hanover has created additional traffic problems by rezoning the area, i don't think morris plains should have to fund or suffer additional traffic delays. The problem is traffic volume. Tweaking lights, turn lanes and adding bus stations doesn't decrease the traffic.
Richard December 13, 2012 at 08:44 PM
To your point Val: Making accomodations for more cars to flow through our town will increase traffic. It will make things worse.
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:02 PM
This is great!!!!! Traffic on East Hanover is HORRIBLE in the Morning and in the evening and hopefully this will reduce the amount of traffic on Ridgedale. The Morris County Mall obviously was not made to handle the massive amount of Wal-Mart shoppers and Rigedale wasn't made to handle shoppers traffic. Driving on Ridgedale/making lefts either into TD Bank or into the Mall is like playing Russian Roulette. And now, since so many people are using Ridgedale because 287 is so backed up, the problems are getting worse!!! The old and outdated, patchwork that is the Morris County Mall just doesn't work. I can assume a new more efficient and effective area to shop will be welcomed by all.
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Yes, Rich, more cars may be flowing through our town, but instead of having 1000 cars sit in traffic for 30 minutes, hopefully they 1200 cars can be in and out in a fraction of that time leaving an open road for the rest of us who live here.
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Well what do you suggest? Closing down East Hanover and sending everyone to Route 10 instead
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Well, what is in place now is OBVIOUSLY not working. I would like to see how the timing of lights would affect the traffic. I think the traffic lights should be able to see what traffic is coming towards them and they can adjust accordingly. Like, if at one road, there is no traffic and at another road, it is backed to 10 or 20 cars, that light that has all the cars at it should stay green for a bit longer letting those cars through. I mean, how many times have you been waiting at a light, it turns green and then the next one 500 feet down the road turns red right as you get to it. If lights could adjust depending on traffic conditions and work together with other lights, traffic could flow more smoothly.
Antonio December 13, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Maybe what we need is a direct connection between Rt 10 and the new shopping area? That would take traffic out of Speedwell, Ridgedale and siphon traffic off from Hanover. That spur was planned years ago but it has never been built. I know some of the residents don't like it, but the two lane stretch of Hannover between Speedwell and Stiles could be widened to at least three lanes (switching the direction of the center lane in the morning and evening) to reduce the congestion that weights on the entire area....
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Actually a bunch of those houses on East Hanover are already being sold just for the land. Most of those houses are so run down and decrepit that they need tens, if not hundreds of thousands of $$'s in repairs. I rent now and am looking to buy a house. I saw a few there for a good price, but then when I found that they need new foundations, new roofs, and have major structural damage, I realized why they were going for so cheap. I think one actually has police tape around it so you can't step foot on the property because it is so dangerous. They could def knock them down and make way for a wider road.
Antonio December 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
It is because a traffic jam is created from Speedwell to Stiles, where the 4 lanes Hanover Ave narrow down to 2 lanes..... A sworse jam occurs in the morning in the opposite direction...
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Uhh... its the start of rush hour traffic. And it stays like that til almost 7 if not later some nights. You should see it going the other way in the morning. Traffic is backed up from Ridgedale all the way into Sussex County. lol.
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:28 PM
You can't cut through the neighborhoods. I know you can't make a left in the neighborhoods between 4-7pm. Granted, its the neighborhood surrounding MLK ave. You don't want to drive through there anyway.
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Actually, I live in Cedar Knolls and work in Morristown. I would LOVE to ride my bike the 2.5 miles to work. I tried it once and almost died multiple times. There is no sidewalk on Ridgedale. If they make bike lakes or a large sidewalk on East Hanover, they still need to connect it to something.
Chris December 13, 2012 at 09:41 PM
I think that direct connection from Rt. 10 to East Hanover is called Ridgedale Ave! And for those of you in Morris Knolls... its called Route 202.
Antonio December 13, 2012 at 09:58 PM
No, there was a road planned to go from near Cry rd to rt 10, where the underpass is all the way to Rt 80. I think it died with the proposal to extend Rt 24 to the East side of Morristown.... Now, this could really reduce the trafic on Hannover....
Joe December 13, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Yes...this is the answer...save all the money and just extend Route 24 West...as was the original plan!
Richard December 13, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Extending Rt24 would seem to present the best chance at relieving in-town congestion.
Richard December 13, 2012 at 10:53 PM
"hopefully they 1200 cars can be in and out in a fraction of that time leaving an open road for the rest of us who live here." This is a complete fantasy. There are no "open roads" anywhere in Northern NJ at rush hour...or lunch hour for that matter. You're suggesting that adding a lane to a few hundred-yard stretch of Hanover Ave will bring our town back to the 50's. The delay on Hanover Ave is caused by the light, not the lanes. You can't bias the light against Speedwell at rush hour because that road is already congested beyond capacity. But the root problem is that there are too many cars. It's that simple. Encouraging even more cars to use Hanover Ave is the worst possible proposal. "The congestion that weights oon the area", as you put it, is quite capable of becoming much worse.
Beachrose December 13, 2012 at 11:35 PM
There were two plans to take traffic off of Hanover Ave and both were nixed. One was to extend East Hanover Ave to Tabor Rd to bypass Moris Plains. Houses were demolished but this plan never went forward. There is now a memorial to 9/11 in that space. The other was to extend Rt 24 to Mendham Rd but the wealthy in Mendham also nixed this plan. Even to Sussex Ave wold have been a help. So here we are and our neighbors on East Hanover Ave between MLK and the Sparkle Car Wash have been thrown to the wolves. They are being treated like garbage. A nice 10' sidewalk is being planned to accomodate the new shops on the otherside of the street while they are begging for a small sidewalk just to keep the speeding cars from their property. How about a little consideration and at least giving them a shoulder in front of their homes? Tthey are a part of Morris Township and deserve some consideration. They have children and are concerned for their safety. Do we have to kiss up to the new developments or take care of our own?
Beachrose December 13, 2012 at 11:53 PM
It took us 7 minutes to go from Sparkle Car Wash through the light at Ridgedale at 10am. This is a joke.
Antonio December 14, 2012 at 02:11 AM
So, how do we present our plan to extend Rt. 24 to the powers that be?
Chris December 14, 2012 at 07:02 AM
That would be a logical course of action considering the progress of highways in this area over the last 40 years, but to do that the government will have to buy up rather large chunk of expensive NJ real estate and many residential homes.
Chris December 14, 2012 at 07:07 AM
Well, not an open road, but I am sure that there is a better way to set up the traffic infrastructure than what is currently in place right now.
Jack Cutler March 02, 2013 at 06:49 PM
Why do Morris Township and Morris Plains residence need to be inconvenience for the sake of Randolph commuters. There is NO room to widen Hanover without destroying dozens of home and completely cutting off Morris Township from Morris Plains. As a Township resident, I am thankful that we have Frank Druetzler as Mayor of Morris Plains standing up for us since the Morris Township mayor and committee don't give a crap about our homes and will widen the road just so one less car drives past Bruce Sisler's house. There is NO room to widen West Hanover and very little room to widen east. We do NOT want a highway!!!
Chris April 18, 2013 at 07:11 PM
So apparently the beautiful new Saddle Brook Apartment Complex that they just finished building over on Horsehill Road are for LOW INCOME PEOPLE ONLY. I just got an e-mail back from them saying that you have have a total family income of LESS than $40,000 to be eligible for an bedroom apartment. Great economic development. Now our tax dollars are going to supplement the rent for the low lives who will be living in this apartment complex. If you think it was bad over by Martin Luther King Blvd, well now its going to seep over into Horsehill/Cedar Knolls, too.

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