The state of New Jersey is seeking public input on a proposed $95 million enterprise it said will improve traffic flow by creating a junction between a heavily congested portion of Route 15 and Interstate 80 in Morris County.
Dubbed the I-80/Route 15 Interchange Improvements project, a portion of the large-scale roadway effort will be located in Rockaway Township, Wharton and Dover.
Commuters traveling on I-80 east wanting to connect to Route 15 south into Wharton — the main access to the Rockaway Townsquare Mall — will exit off a newly constructed ramp, according to the NJDOT's plans.
Sidewalks and curb ramps are expected to be constructed along Route 15 in Wharton, between the intersection of Route 15 south and East Dewey Avenue (near the Costco Wholesale and ShopRite stores) and south to the intersection of Mt. Pleasant Avenue. A pair of traffic signals at those two intersections also would be replaced and improved.
Commuters merging off I-80 east onto Exit 34 for Wharton/North Main Street will have more time to decelerate with a proposed extended deceleration lane, as shown in the NJDOT plans.
The agency is proposing the replacement of four bridges due to their current conditions:
- The I-80 east span over the former Mt. Hope Mineral Railroad,
- Route 15 north bridge over the former Mt. Hope Mineral Railroad,
- Route 15 north structure over the Green Pond Brook and,
- The Route 15 south bridge over North Main Street.
Two additional bridges also are expected to be widened on I-80.
The New Jersey Historic Preservation Office concurred with the NJDOT that there are no resources in the proposed construction area that are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
The remnants of two 19th century mines — the Huff Mine and the Mt. Pleasant Mine — are located within or near the construction area. The NJDOT stated that each site was reviewed, and the main structures have been removed. Additionally, the Mt. Pleasant mine has already been disturbed by existing structures, according to the transportation agency.
The NJDOT asked that anyone who may know of potential affects to historic properties, groups (including Native American tribes) or historical objects the construction may cause is urged to contact Amber Cheney with the department's Bureau of Landscape Agriculture and Environmental Solutions at Amber.Cheney@dot.nj.gov.
Once public comment is closed, the next phase will be to finalize the project, which state officials say will take several years. The I-80/route 15 Interchange Improvements project is expected to break ground in Spring 2025 and be completed in roughly four years.
The need for the road work is backed up by the latest U.S. Census data showing more than 54 percent of Sussex County residents commute to work and spend an average of 38 minutes in the car, a number that is 20 percent higher than the state's average commute time of 33 minutes.