By Ron Leir
After what Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso characterized as “33 years of starts and stops,” the township – with help from Bergen County – is finally beginning to see the start of improvements to the intersection at Kingsland and Riverside Aves.
The changes – being undertaken under a contract awarded by the county – are designed with the aim of relieving commuter backups at the approach to the DeJessa Memorial Bridge, linking Lyndhurst and Nutley over the Passaic River, and from Rt. 21 on the Nutley side of the bridge.
Contributing to the problem – accentuated during rush hour periods – are bad traffic signal synchronization, coupled with the age (more than a century old) and limited capacity (one lane in each direction) of the truss swing span over which more than 26,000 vehicles cross on a daily average.
Since coming into office nine years ago, Giangeruso has been pressing for action to alleviate the persistent commuter nightmare that has afflicted residents of both Lyndhurst and Nutley and beyond.
It took eight years, the mayor noted, just for Lyndhurst and Bergen County to come up with a project design, for Lyndhurst to acquire privately owned rights of way easements, to move commercial signs for 601 Riverside and an Exxon station, and to coordinate relocation of utility poles, before the county could bid out the intersection work.
Bids from three firms were submitted, ranging to a high of nearly $1 million, with J C Contracting Inc. of Bloomfield coming in as low bidder with a price of $813,725. A contract was awarded recently by the Bergen County Freeholders and work began in earnest Oct. 6.
A temporary traffic signal has been installed and was activated when PSE&G connected the electrical service and the project’s construction will be phased so that one corner of the intersection is completed at a time to minimize inconvenience and to keep the intersection open to traffic, Giangeruso said.
Brian Intindola, director of traffic engineering services for Neglia Engineering, the township’s consulting engineering firm, outlined the improvements as follows:
For traffic flowing from Nutley to Lyndhurst, there will be a “fully signalized” dedicated left turn lane, from Kingsland Ave. eastbound to Riverside Ave. northbound, along with a dedicated through lane and a dedicated right turn lane, coming from the bridge to Riverside southbound.
“The idea is we’re trying to move as much traffic off the bridge as possible, given its capacity being restrained,” Intindola said.
As a complement to that flow, for traffic moving from Lyndhurst to Nutley coming off the bridge, there will be a fully signalized dedicated left turn lane from Kingsland westbound to Riverside southbound and a shared through lane and right turn lane for Nutley-bound motorists.
For traffic southbound on Riverside, a new right turn lane will be constructed to allow motorists improved access to the bridge to cross into Nutley; there will also be a dedicated left turn lane for local traffic to Kingsland eastbound and a through lane to continue southbound on Riverside.
Traffic northbound on Riverside will get a dedicated left turn lane to cross the bridge, along with a shared right turn to Kingsland eastbound and northbound through lane.
“We have worked out the signal timing to be as efficient as possible,” Intindola said. “As eastbound Kingsland traffic coming off the bridge from Nutley to Lyndhurst gets a green light, drivers making right turns from Riverside to Kingsland will proceed at the same time.”
“We’re also attempting to do video detection where you can optimize signalization time to process as much traffic as possible and to facilitate better coordination with the Rt. 21 ramp traffic signal and River Road (County Rt. 622) on the Essex County side,” said Intindola.
As things are now, he said, coordination of the signals isn’t aligned, “so we’re going to use a GPS-based clock mechanism to stay in sync.”
Additionally, Intindola said, for public safety, there will be “full pedestrian actuation,” meaning push-button activated Walk/Don’t Walk signals for people looking to cross Kingsland or Riverside, and new curbside disabled-access ramps.
Intindola credited Giangeruso for having “invested a lot of time and effort to bring this project together,” since it was first pitched as a concept back in 1981.
If Mother Nature cooperates, Inindola said that the contractor could wrap up the project with paving by spring 2015.