Sunday, July 11, 2010

Getting Around To Fixing a North Jersey Bottleneck

The Record ran a story today that the Department of Transportation is moving forward with the initial steps with fixing one of the major traffic bottlenecks in Bergen County.

The area in question is Route 17 from Essex Street up to the Garden State Plaza. The reason for the bottleneck is all too clear for anyone who drives this section on a regular basis.

While the rest of Route 17 has expanded to three lanes in each direction, the 2 mile stretch here is only two lanes in each direction. Moreover several areas do not have shoulders at all.

This expansion project is not without a substantial cost. Not only will it cost more than $200 million, but it will require the eminent domain taking of part or all of more than 50 properties along the improved right of way.

Using eminent domain for such purposes is wholly within the original intent of taking for a public purpose. That doesn't mean that everyone will want to leave; several residences that are under consideration for condemnation are opposed to the project and Rochelle Park is opposed because it would affect the town's tax base. The town would lose more than $1 million each year.

I can almost understand the town's concern, except that this stretch is one of the more dangerous highways in the region. There's an accident every two days along the stretch, and that's a cost that isn't taken into account in the real estate taxes that would be lost by improving the safety along this corridor.

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