Mayor: County Ends Funds for Bypass Project
Long Valley Safety Project may officially be dead.
After more than 20 years of considering, planning, engineering and land purchasing, the potential Long Valley Safety Project–known to many as the Schooley’s Mountain Bypass–may officially be a dead idea.
Some $150,000 had been put in reserve for the project by the Morris County Freeholders for the purpose of land purchase along the proposed route of the bypass, Washington Township Mayor Ken Short said.
When Short met with Freeholder director Bill Chegwidden recently to request the funds, however, the freeholder advised that the project would no longer be receiving funds from the governing body.
According to Short, Chegwidden said that because the project has no specified end date, funds would no longer be allocated to the improvement project.
“(Chegwidden) said there are no future plans to make any improvements on the roadway,” Short said. “This is a county road. This is the county’s responsibility. And they have no plans to make it safer.”
Over the years there have been about seven different plans considered to construct a bypass for the roadway between Camp Washington and East Mill Roads, according to Short. The final plan was adopted six years ago.
In March of 2011, the Christie Administration announced it would give $3.5 billion to the state for various road projects in 2011. Of those monies, $720,000 was allocated to the advancement of the Long Valley Safety Project.
This comes in addition to $800,000 appropriated by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen about five years ago, Short said. All funds thus far have been used for planning and engineering costs.
The project would bypass the stretch of approximately 0.8 miles, and plans have considered turning Schooley’s Mountain Road into a cul-de-sac at ‘Big Turn’, just north of the Washington Township Municipal Building. The new road would head downhill from ‘Big Turn’ and end up across the street from the Long Valley Middle School. The bypass would be a two-lane road with a shoulder.
The property next to the Middle School, where the annual Fireworks Festival takes place, would be turned into an extension of the bypass road, and loop around to Fairmount Road across from the Valley Shepherd Creamery. If a traveler was heading from the east along Rt. 513, a connecting road would begin at Hoffman’s Supply True Value and would connect to the entryway at the Creamery.
“About a decade ago,” Short said, “when an initial estimate was constructed for the project, a total of about $7 million was quoted.” Now, 11 years later, Short believes the cost would be near $15 million.
Most land parcels in the area have already been purchased, Short said, and now he’s unsure of what the county plans to do with the space, as it was originally allocated for the project.
“(Schooley’s Mountain) is certainly not the safest road out there. It's certainly not the safest road in the county,” Short said. “I don’t understand why the project isn’t moving forward.”
Much of the testing, engineering and site plan has already been approved, Short said, and it’s a matter of having the funds to begin and complete the roadwork.
In the past six months, a tractor-trailer has topple over on Schooley’s Mountain Road near a school bus stop, and a driver crashed into the stone bridge at the south end of the roadway. During flash flooding in September 2011, chunks of asphalt on the county road were torn up by water pressure, and guardrails were unearthed from their foundations.
“It’s very disappointing to see this not happen,” Short said. “It’s been in our town’s master plan for over 20 years. It’s seems like Western Morris County is getting the short end of the stick.”