Proposed traffic changes worry SKIA

If you take away the light, it will be safer.

Or, at least, that’s what state traffic experts surmise, when it comes to phasing out the signal at the South Kearny intersection of Pennsylvania and Central Aves.

That’s part of the plan for reconfigured traffic flow that, according to locals, could result from plans being drafted by the state Department of Transportation.

Members of the South Kearny Industrial Association (SKIA) who operate businesses in the town’s largely industrial section were briefed Jan. 18 by DOT representatives on what may lie ahead.

DOT asked to meet with “businesses that may be affected by the Fish House Rd./Pennsylvania Ave. project” to expand traffic lanes in anticipation of additional truck traffic with the eventual completion of repairs to the Pulaski Skyway and of the new Wittpenn (Rt. 7) Bridge.

SKIA Chairman Alan M. Lambiase, an official of River Terminal, which hosted the gathering, said that while “it was good to have dialogue” with DOT, the association members “expressed some concerns” about aspects of the plan.

But he added that the members were assured by DOT that the plan was “not etched in stone” and that it was expected to take “close to two years to design.”

And, reportedly, it could take another two years to actually complete the work.

So it’s possible, he added, that DOT would consider modifications to the plan before executing a final design and putting the project out to bid.

One issue that SKIA hopes DOT will take another look at, has to do with a part of the plan to expand Pennsylvania Ave., from the current one lane in each direction, to two lanes, westbound and eastbound.

At the junction of Pennsylvania and Central, there is currently a traffic light allowing for turns at the intersection and also allowing for westbound vehicles traveling on Pennsylvania to continue straight through the intersection.

Based on what the DOT has shared with SKIA, the plan calls for removal of that signal, with two lanes on Pennsylvania provided for traffic turning south onto Central and a third, right-hand lane dedicated for vehicles going straight westbound on Pennsylvania.

And, as the DOT advised in a brief notice to SKIA, after the road improvements are completed, vehicles that need to go to the western side of Pennsylvania from Central “must use the existing municipally-owned streets (Second and/or Third Sts. and Jacobus Ave.) instead of continuing straight on Central and turning left onto Pennsylvania.

This also means that businesses on the west side of Pennsylvania or on Jacobus that need to access Truck Rt. 1 or Rt. 7 would have to detour via Jacobus to Second or Third to Central and then make a right turn to access Truck Rt. 1 or turn left to get to Rt. 7. 

“That’s a concern,” Lambiase said.

The Pennsylvania Ave. properties referenced by DOT include a 38-acre tract owned by APG NJ & BE Kearny of Los Angeles, Calif., containing 634,000 square feet of several warehouses rented to various tenants, plus several Jacobus Ave. industrial buildings.

Should that traffic diversion plan go forward, Lambiase said, then it is SKIA’s preference that the DOT first arrange to pave Second and Third Sts. “so that the additional 80,000 tons of traffic projected by the DOT doesn’t further damage those roads.”

It is also hoped that the businesses impacted by the traffic reconfiguration have sufficient room for trucks to get in and out of their Pennsylvania Ave. driveways.

The Observer asked the DOT for an update on its plans for facilitating the South Kearny roadway improvements, its timetable for acquiring rights-of-way to expand the width of Pennsylvania Ave. and projected budget for the project.

DOT spokesman Kevin Israel replied: “The project is still in the design phase and is more than three years from going to construction. The discussions at [the Jan. 18] meeting were about the preliminary designs and until the project reaches a more advanced stage and the design is finalized, it is not possible to know the effect on traffic or businesses. DOT will continue to work closely with Kearny as the project proceeds and provide the public with information accordingly.”


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