MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – The Morris County Board of Freeholders and state Sen. Anthony Bucco, in cooperation with Mount Arlington Borough and Roxbury Township, announced Monday that a “Virtual Public Information Center” has opened and will remain open through Friday to unveil and allow public input into the latest phase of an ongoing Howard Boulevard Traffic Safety Improvement Study.
The virtual center may be accessed by computer or smart-phone at virtualmeetings.jmt.com/HowardBlvdPIC2. The on-line presentation, instead of an actual public meeting, was made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions against large, public indoor gatherings. The virtual presentation created by Johnson Mirmiran & Thompson, the Trenton-based consulting firm hired by Morris County in April 2019 to study an accident prone section of Howard Boulevard in Mount Arlington, outlines the consultant’s findings and preliminary recommendations to resolve traffic safety concerns and to solicit public comments and input.
The study focuses on a section of Howard Boulevard that carries heavy traffic to and from the Lake Hopatcong area to intersections with I-80 as well as Routes 46 and 10. The specific stretch posing concerns runs from Seasons Drive to the I-80 eastbound ramp and a NJ Transit rail station driveway, very close to the Roxbury border.
The virtual center provides a PowerPoint video and information boards presented in a “virtual meeting room,” which is a 3-D, virtual-reality image that appears to be a large room in which visitors sign-in at a welcome table and start a narrated, presentation designed to help them navigate the findings and recommendations. The presentation includes various maps and story-boards that outline proposals to restrict some turning options for motorists along the northbound lanes of Howard Boulevard and plans to redirect motorists to a jug-handle turn to accommodate traffic in and out of merchant operations along the roadway.
Visitors to the meeting room may opt to simply read the video presentation rather than use the narration, but all will be directed to 11 separate stations, including a “comment station.” The video explains how to adjust views and proceed through the different maps and diagrams provided. Visitors will be able to offer their own thoughts and recommendations through a downloadable contact form.
Three public meetings were initially proposed in January 2019, when the freeholders, in conjunction with Mt. Arlington and then-Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, announced the county would undertake a thorough review of the accident-prone section of Howard Boulevard. The first meeting was held in September 2019 in Mount Arlington to introduce the consultants to residents and other interested individuals, and to discuss the study.
The virtual meeting, delayed by the pandemic, is the second information meeting. It is intended to provide an opportunity for the consultant to present the firm’s collected data, recommendations and concept plans for solutions. Ultimately, a preferred plan will be developed and presented at a third meeting.
The consultant began by collecting data, including an analysis of accident history, travel patterns, weekday and weekend traffic counts, and speed limit patterns. The firm also made first-hand observations of driving patterns and motorists’ behavior, and was required to recommend a series of conceptual and viable short- and long-term safety enhancements.
There are three signal-controlled intersections and several driveways within the study area. Each of the signals are owned and maintained by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and Howard Boulevard is under county jurisdiction. The DOT has simultaneously been moving on designs to replace the I-80 overpass at Howard Boulevard, which would include improvements to on and off ramps and modifications to the traffic signals there.
The engineering phase of the DOT plan continues, and the earliest proposed date for issuing a construction contract award is in 2022.