N.J. County's Freeholders Join in Asking for Fix to I-80 S-Curve

Tue October 06, 2020 - Northeast Edition

Study area map. (NJ.gov photo)
Study area map. (NJ.gov photo)

Warren County, N.J., freeholders on Sept. 23 voted to support Knowlton Township's request to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) for an s-curve safety, mobility and congestion transportation problem statement for a section of Interstate 80 that winds through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The request was initiated by members of the local community-based I-80 Rockfall Fence and Safety Concerns at the Delaware Water Gap Coalition.

The county resolution also lends support for New Jersey U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer's 2019 request that NJDOT perform a speed study on the same section of highway.

The coalition, with elected officials from Knowlton and Hardwick townships and other local municipalities, has complained about NJDOT plans to construct a rockfall fence along the freeway through the scenic Delaware Water Gap between mileposts 1.04 and 1.45.

The group has argued that many more accidents occur when vehicles speed through two substantial curves on I-80 that make up the s-curve. Fixing the s-curve would be far more effective at increasing safety in the area than constructing a large fence, the coalition has said.

Opponents of the fence also believe it would detract from the natural beauty of the area and be costly to tourism.

The NJDOT has stated that the area on I-80 has the highest risk of falling rock of anywhere on New Jersey's highways. Slides and falls have closed the highway three times in the last 15 years. Between 2001 and 2017, there were 11 rockfalls that caused 14 accidents, one of which was fatal.

The federal funding that would be used for the project is allocated specifically for rockfall mitigation projects.

"NJDOT is aware of local concerns along this stretch of roadway," the transportation department posted on its website. "We are investigating these concerns and considering roadway and driver enhancements using available innovative technologies that could improve driver attention and safety."

Earlier this year, in response to these concerns, new speed limit signs and warning signs with flashing lights were installed along the s-curve segment, according to the NJDOT.

In July, Gottheimer, representing New Jersey's 5th Congressional District, introduced an amendment to the federal Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act that would prohibit money from the act being used to build the rockfall fence.

The current NJDOT plan is to begin construction, which will take four years to complete, in 2023.

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