NJ DOT official gives projected time frame for Route 37-166 roadwork
It's arguably been one of the biggest eye sores in all of Ocean County the past couple years and it's brought daily frustration to drivers, businesses and government officials but when will the Route 37-166 road work finally be complete?
The work on this project began in March of 2016 and it's taken a long time to press forward.
New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman Matthew Saidel cast the blame on the Transportation Trust Fund, when then Governor Chris Christie ordered a shutdown of the TTF causing the Route 37-166 work to stall between July and October of 2016.
"The gas company moved onto other work and only restarted its work in the summer of 2017 which caused a change to the overall project schedule," Saidel said. "That work needed to be done prior to additional utility work and the road work that then proceeded."
He said earlier in 2018 the DOT worked with Toms River and Ocean County officials to expedite the reconstruction of the on/off ramps between Route 166 and 37 and as a result work was done by Memorial Day there.
The $11,700,000.00 project has planned upgrades for the intersection of Route 166 and Route 37 by installing a raised median barrier between opposing traffic, improve the roadway geometry, make traffic signal improvements between Highland Parkway and Old Freehold Road, and widen the roadway by constructing a new through lane on Route 166 northbound and southbound, according to the NJ DOT.
Saidel says the estimated time frame for the completion of this work is the end of THIS YEAR outside of some landscaping work but nothing that will affect your commute.
There's still plenty of work crews need to wrap up.
"We have continued to work with business owners and the community to expedite some of the work particularly on the north side of the project," Saidel said. "What's remaining to be completed is some utility relocation and work on a retaining wall on the north side of Route 37 and after that the contractor can continue to upgrade the curbs and sidewalks and then to reconstruct the roadway."
Saidel said they expect to have the work south of Route 37 done by the end of the summer.
"A new traffic signal at the end of Highland Parkway will be operational," Saidel said.
Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari told Townsquare Media New Jersey News back in March that if work on this project wasn't done by the end of 2018, he was going to let everyone know who is to blame.
A month later Vicari's crusade continued when he told us he spoke to Governor Murphy in-person to try and get things moving.
Among the issues Vicari voiced was a lack of communication from the NJ DOT on when they will be working on a given stretch of the road.
"No one knows what's going to happen, they (road crews) just come and shut down the business, they don't say anything and cars cannot access their parking lot so they lose days of business day after day after day," Vicari said. "It cannot be tolerated anymore."
Businesses began to vent their frustrations.
Saidel says they're actively addressing the communication breakdown.
"The department is aware of some of these problems and we are doing everything we can to ensure that businesses receive adequate notification of any issues that would prevent access to their business," Saidel said. "We do understand that road construction does cause disruptions, we do understand that, and we ask the businesses in the area to continue to express their concerns to the department when they feel they haven't received adequate notice."
Another issue is the time the roads get worked on.
"In order to get this project done as quickly as possible there is some work that is done during the day," Saidel said. "Concrete work like curbs and sidewalks is generally always done during the day."
However he said any lane closures from milling and paving operations take place at night.
When asked if there was ever a shortage of workers or funds available to complete the project, Saidel had no comment.
"I can't comment on that at this time," Saidel said.
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