Residents frustrated by truck traffic in southern Middlesex County voiced their concerns and offered solutions at the first public meeting for a study that will identify traffic management strategies for the area.

“I’m scared to drive here with these trucks,” said one woman.

The county and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) asked residents of Monroe, South Brunswick, Cranberry Township and Jamesburg to offer input on truck traffic at a meeting held at the Monroe Senior Center on Dec. 7.

This will be the first of two public meetings being held for the $400,000 NJTPA-funded South Middlesex County Freight Study.

“This is a much-needed holistic regional look at the freight truck traffic that you’re dealing with in this part of the county,” said Monroe Mayor Stephen Dalina. “It’s good to see the county government coming together and understanding and acknowledging the issues.”

Middlesex County’s primary study area is Monroe, South Brunswick, Cranberry, and Jamesburg.

There is a secondary area that the study team will also look at, which includes other parts of the county and neighboring counties.

The study began in April with data collection and will continue until June 2023.

“We understand the increase in warehousing and trucking in the area, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andrew Lappit, principal planner for the Middlesex County Department of Transportation and project manager for the study.

The county’s transportation department and its study consultant are currently in the “findings and recommendations development phase” of the process.

“Your feedback tonight will give us recommendations to improve freight traffic in the area and make the area a better place for our residents,” Lapit said.

Residents who attended the in-person meeting broke into several discussion groups with a study team from the county and WSP USA, an engineering and design firm that is the county’s technical consultant for the trucking study.

According to Alan Meyers, WSP project manager, the goals of the study include “identifying truck route alternatives to eliminate impacts to communities in the primary study area; and identify possible improvements to existing road and rail infrastructure to address congestion and safety.”

The study is designed to develop cooperation with municipalities, private industry and regional organizations and provides recommendations for improving workers’ access to work and fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of the study’s recommendations, according to the district.

“The trucking activity is mostly in the wedge between US 130 and the New Jersey Turnpike. But you can also see it drain east and west along the county roads,” Meyers said. “The biggest truck volumes we see are the turnpike, US 130 and US 1 for trucks in the main study area “.

In the secondary study area, the largest volume of truck traffic is the turnpike, interstates, and parkways, as well as significant volumes of traffic along cross streets.

According to the research team’s presentation, high volumes of lorries are constantly encountered around Junction 8A.

The next steps for the freight study group are to complete data analysis and mapping, compile an online map and survey results, complete stakeholder and industry meetings, and move forward with recommendations.

Truck traffic problems

Residents who attended the meeting pointed out specific problems related to trucks and truck traffic on maps placed on individual tables at the Monroe Senior Center.

Monroe Township resident Eric Wolfe, who lives in the Clearbrook Senior Community, said one of the problems in the area is that there are a lot of 55-and-older communities, and all the farmland is being turned into warehouses.

“You have a lot of older drivers who, as you get older, have problems driving in general, and now you’re putting them on the road with semi-trailers on roads that aren’t designed for that level of traffic,” he said, noting the alleged collision between by a pedestrian and an “18-wheeler” at the corner of Applegart Road and Prospect Plains Road.

Wolff added that he hopes the information gathered during the meeting will be used.

“But, let’s be honest, there are many words with the local government, and business becomes business,” he said. “Now you have a local community inundated with semi-trucks. Whether that leads to anything remains to be seen.”

Other specific concerns raised by residents included: truck drivers not seeing cars; truck drivers speeding and U-turns on narrow roads; trucks traveling on Cranbury Half Acre Road; truck parking lot from exit 8A to the traffic light; trucks blocking the street at Prospect Plains Road and Applegart Road, and heavy truck traffic on Cranberry South River, Browns Corner and Docks Corner roads.

“I avoid driving on County Road 535 because of truck traffic,” a resident wrote on one of the cards at the senior center.

Residents of the Four Seasons at Monroe, a 55-and-older community in Prospect Plains, noticed trucks parked overnight in the driveway.

“They use it as a rest stop for trucks,” said a resident.

Potential solutions suggested by attendees included creating truck parking zones, diverting trucks at exits 9 and 8A off the road, and limiting warehouse construction.

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