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Mayor: Stats Show Schooley's Needs Bypass

Washington Township Committee continues to pursue Long Valley Safety Project.

After being told by Morris County Freeholder Director Bill Chegwidden that the Long Valley Safety Project–also known as the Schooley’s Mountain Bypass–was , Washington Township Mayor Ken Short says he’s not going to let the county single-handedly put an end to what he feels is necessary in Washington Township.

At the Washington Township Committee’s regular meeting on Monday, March 19, Chief Michael Bailey and Patrol Officer Michael Hade presented the governing body with accident statistics from Schooley’s Mountain Road–a county roadway–that have happened since 2009.

In the time frame studied, there have been 196 accidents on roadway, the reports stated. Between Camp Washington Road and ‘Big Turn’–the area that would become the bypass if the project moved forward–there have been 24 accidents during that time frame.

In that same area, two of those accidents have resulted in fatalities, the statistics showed. The police also noted there have been more than 100 disabled vehicles in the past three years on ‘Big Turn’ alone.

Over the past 20 years, the project’s plans have seen various iterations, , Short said. to purchase land for the project and conduct tests and begin engineering over the past few years.

If the bypass was completed, Schooley’s Mountain Road, heading south, would essentially go straight downhill from ‘Big Turn’–the major curve just north of the municipal building–eliminating the final two bends in the road.

The road would extend south, cross over West Mill Road, and loop around the , exiting onto Fairmount Road near

No Respect?

Washington Township Police are in charge of enforcing the weight limit of vehicles on Schooley’s Mountain Road. The weight limit currently stands at 20 tons, unless a truck is making a local delivery, but is hard to enforce because the township does not have a scale or weigh master.

The , stating that any vehicle’s gross registered vehicle weight–which is listed on the side of the truck–surpasses 20 tons, will be subject to fines and violations.

Two separate letters have been sent to the New Jersey Department of Transportation seeking approval to amend the ordinance, according to Township Administrator Deb Burd, but the municipality has yet to hear back.

The letters were sent in February 2011, and October 2011.

“We’ve asked (the county) for a shoulder to be put onto (county road) Bartley Road between the high school and Palmer Park,” Short said. “Pavement on Schooley’s Mountain is separating and there’s a guardrail still hanging in the air. We pay taxes just like the rest of the county, but it doesn’t seem to matter right now.”

Short said he has reached out to State Senator Tony Bucco and State Assemblyman Anthony Bucco to help in the process. The mayor also said he’ll be attending the next freeholder meeting to voice his concerns to the governing body.

The next township committee work session meeting is Wednesday, April 11 at the .

Gadfly March 21, 2012 at 01:18 PM
The bypass is a giant boondoggle. Please let it die before anymore tax dollars are wasted.
Angelo March 21, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Sometimes sending a letter(s) isn't enough. Waitng 6 months between letters, and still waiting, for a response means it is time to schedule a meeting with the DOT.
Kevin March 21, 2012 at 02:33 PM
If safety is an issue then lower the speed limit, enforce the truck policy, repave the road properly!
Lee Moss Filson March 21, 2012 at 03:16 PM
What makes long valley beautiful is it's windy country roads. Don't change it by putting in a by pass just because people can't follow the law.
Gadfly March 21, 2012 at 03:22 PM
The state allocated 3/4 Million for this project only a year ago and they have continued to buy up land and remove buildings for the bypass. Why is the town putting out these messages that the project is dead? Is it to apply political pressure on the county to contribute more to the project or act faster? In any case, I don't think it's working. In the poll associated with the earlier article here on the Patch, readers voted two to one that the project is unnecessary.
Elizabeth March 21, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Enforce the speed limit as well as the weight limits for the Trucks. A bypass ruins our rural beauty and wastes money.
Tracy Tobin March 21, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Kevin Speed limits and weight restrictions on trucks have to be approved by the State DOT. Neither the Town nor the County can change them. New weight limits have to be approved and signage posted before the Police can enforce them. The County DPW is responsible for road repairs and repair/replacement of guard rails damaged by last Fall's torrential rain storms. The Mayor is pressing the County to get the work done. Some repairs were made several weeks ago but the full repairs needed are still "work in progress...or not in progress".
Tracy Tobin March 21, 2012 at 04:16 PM
At Monday night's meeting, the Mayor told the Township Committee that he had called the County re the status of the Crosswalk safety improvement project on Schooley's Mountain Road at the bicycle/pedestrian trail. The Committee requested improvements six months ago due to increased usage of the County trail through our town in the past year. The response was that "the work would have to be done in the Spring" due to the need to make the crosswalk ADA compliant. The latest update is that there are a couple of projects ahead of the crosswalk, but the County will get to it. With the Green Market set to reopen April 5, the safety improvements (signage,road striping and ADA pads) need to be done now BEFORE we have a pedestrian/bicycle/auto accident.
Moses Lonn March 21, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Now that there is no representation on the Morris Freeholder Board from the western county, you can expect that there will be less and less attention paid to Washington Township's needs. Cutting funding for the bypass is just the opening shot.
Hookerman March 21, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Re; enforcing the weight limit; 1) that is impossible for the WTPD to do since they don't carry truck scales with them in their patrol cars, 2) there is no indication that only trucks that are over 20 tons are at risk. In fact, lighter trucks may actually be at more risk of tipping while traversing the 'Big Turn'.
Jennifer Simon March 21, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I agree! If the speed limit is obeyed there is no safety issue. But many drivers treat this road as a super highway. My son's bus has almost been hit several times. Trucks do not belong on this road -- it doesn't matter that it's a county road -- if it isn't safe for them to travel this road, then it just ISN'T. And the road should have been fixed (with the guardrail replaced and hillside reinforced) last fall! What are they waiting for....a death when someone plunges over the edge?
Kevin March 21, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I understand that speed limits and weight restrictions have to be approved by the State DOT but isnt there a way of requesting a change or asking for the State DOT to re-evaluate the limits and restrictions?
Tracy Tobin March 21, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Kevin Our PD has been requesting the DOT to reevaluate the Schooley's Mountain weight limit for over a year. Twice the process got started and then got "lost" down in Trenton. That is why I asked the Mayor to contact Senator Bucco to go after the DOT. Small municipalities like ours frequently get frustrated by State agencies that either move with the speed of a glacier or misplace our paperwork. Hopefully the Senator will be able to get the process moving again.
Mr X March 21, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I'm more concerned with the truck problem. There is a large number of 18-wheelers I see going up the hill, just barely making it up the big bend. They slow down traffic to almost a crawl because they can't get out of their own way and they struggle up the hill. What we would need is an outright ban on anything larger than a local delivery truck (like those ones Fed-Ex has that for instance deliver to Rockaway Mall). The drivers of the big rigs ignore the signs and never seem to get caught until they cause an accident or get stuck. Then its a traffic nightmare.
Tracy Tobin March 21, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Hookerman Good points but the larger trucks are more likely to get stuck on "Big Turn" and start to tip over. The road is tricky because there are actually 3 danger points 1) The turn leading into the Camp Washington intersection because the sight distance is limited. 2) Big Turn itself because of the steep grade, turn radius and "road tilt" 3) The 90 degree turn just past the Municipal building. Drivers not familiar with the road underestimate the difficulty and then overreact in their response.
LV Taxpayer March 21, 2012 at 11:42 PM
we were stuck for 1/2 hr last Sat eve as wtpd helped back an 18 wheeler down that couldn't climb the big turn. Did they check HIS weight? How about the do 'routine traffic stops' on every 18 wheeler that traverses the mountain? Pretty soon they'll get the message and take another route. Might even catch a few infractions in the process...
WVB mom March 22, 2012 at 11:46 AM
The road needs to be fixed properly. Not just with guardrails. But with a storm water drainage solution, as well as reinforcing the roadway (by Camp Washington Road). All we need is a few more good "storms of the century" and that part of the road will eventually wash away. Just throwing rocks down and repaving is NOT the answer. Fix it right!!
RGJ March 22, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I believe that anybody who really gets educated on this bypass will support it. First off, just from what I know, we've had two horrific fatals on that stretch in the last few years, and according to Chief Bailey, 196 since 2009. I would like to see where that ranks on a county road for Morris County. Secondly, by no means is it clear that there would be more large truck traffic. The size limits on that stretch are based on limits in Clinton, Chester and Tewksbury. Thirdly, Big Turn is simply ridiculous, a throwback to colonial times, and I'm sure wagons were tipping over back then too. Every a light rain makes it dangerous -- every Long Valley resident has either spun tires going up there or been behind a vehicle that was. For each of those 196 reported accidents I'm sure there were three near ones. Never mind the center of town intersection where the bridge is constantly getting clipped. The traffic backups have grown to sometimes miles up and down 517 from the intersection in town. Among other things, what this does is have people peeling off the main artery and going down side roads, through heavy residential areas that aren't supposed to be handling the main traffic. cont...
RGJ March 22, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Fourth, the reconfiguration downtown will help make it a viable commercial area for small business in the buildings which are languishing there. And in case you think you don't care those are property tax ratables. Fifth, it is all or mostly not WT property taxes paying for this project that will be beneficial on so many levels. Sixth, it will give access to the municipal property behind the middle school which may be used for a firehouse, community center, or other use such as a small nuclear power plant. I made the last one up. Anyway, @Jen (hi!) I think the traffic in front of your house will not be made worse. The turn at Camp Washington should still govern speed limits, and the daily backups outside your house must be annoying, no? PS: why does the Patch do these polls? It says "an unscientific poll", and it surely is. Would you print a news story from someone submitting an "unscientific poll?"
RGJ March 22, 2012 at 04:12 PM
(196 should read "accidents")
Elizabeth March 23, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Really? Long Valley wants to create a by pass in order to make it more attractive and possible for 18 wheelers to have regular routes though our town? This would be in addition to having built a new elementary school that is now no longer needed due to decreased student population. Let's not forget that we are now building a school bus maintenance facility at the cost of 750k. Why is this being pushed since our school population is projected to be LOWER?
Carolyn Hanington March 23, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Tracy, is there a way the road could simply be closed to truck trafffic? Designate 18-wheelers or something? I feel like I have seen signs like that in other places? It must put awful strain on the bridge too??
Forhonor March 26, 2012 at 01:19 AM
The bypass is not needed. An intelligent traffic light in town center; which would adjust green light times to meet traffic needs at peak and off peak times is the better solution. I have been stuck in mountain traffic many times moving only three car lengths/green light, at other times, only guessing, with alert drivers in front of me, I have moved up to ten. When u get to center of town three other roads are all but empty, but get green lights. Trucks should be banned except local delivery. How bout a driveway to access the town land behind the middle school? Geez.

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