Sunday, March 11, 2012

Now Is Time For New Jersey To Purchase Properties Along Route 17 Corridor

Route 17 through Bergen County is one of the busiest corridors in the state, and traffic congestion is a constant companion to drivers on the stretch between Route 4 in Paramus at the Garden State Plaza and Essex Street in Hackensack. While the rest of Route 17 is a three lane divided highway with paved shoulders leading to businesses, this particular stretch is only two lanes wide, and in some places there aren't shoulders.

Thus, when there are accidents in the area, it can cause massive backups and delays.

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Plans to expand the highway to three lanes in each direction, along with building modern highway overpasses have been floated in the past, but the time is ripe to go ahead with the project now.

Several businesses along the stretch have gone out of business recently, and for sale/lease signs are posted. That would make purchase by the state or localities for the purpose of expanding the highway easier - and less costly.

After all, one of the most expensive portions of the project isn't construction - it's the acquisition costs of property along the highway right of way.

Yet, the mayor of Rochelle Park is opposed to the $200 million proposal. He argues that the expansion would adversely affect traffic in town. That makes little sense, particularly because traffic congestion increases pollution from vehicles sitting in traffic each time the traffic slows down (an all too common occurrence.

In particular, the town claims it would lose $1 million in ratable properties annually as a result of the expansion. That seems particularly far-fetched considering that the properties along the right of way are in several cases marginal properties to begin with and have had difficulty in securing leases. Traffic congestion reduces the chances that people can utilize those same businesses and while several homes would need to be obtained through eminent domain, the benefit to the town as a result of eliminating the traffic bottleneck would mean that drivers on side streets would see improved flow because drivers wouldn't need to seek alternative routes to avoid congestion on Route 17.

Some of the same businesses that sought to block the project have themselves gone out of business or relocated due to the poor economic environment.

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