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This article was prepared for the September 25, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Between the Lines

Once a year we write about traffic, but this subject

is on our minds more often than that. Few days go by without someone

commenting on a fender bender they passed on the way to work, a horrendous

accident in the newspaper, a ditsy driver who was talking on a cell

phone, or the latest in a series of aggravating detours. Traffic on

Route 1 has indeed improved (overall the average commuting time of

17 minutes and 15 seconds is the third fastest time we have recorded

since 1985), but we are still a long way from Roadway Nirvana.

Cell phones are an easy blame for accidents, but another major cause

for traffic confusion, as we see it, is deficient signage. Some of

the drivers who see a sign too late to change lanes safely are going

to try to change lanes anyway.

Signage and lane confusion may have caused the most recent horrendous

accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, when a driver encountered a temporary

construction island just before he needed to turn off at Exit 8. He

ended up on the left of the construction island but — desperate

to get to the turnoff — crossed to the right and was hit by a

truck that killed him, his wife, and his child.

On a smaller scale this kind of confusion plagues Route 1. Nassau

Park and Washington Road, for instance, are among the top 20 most

dangerous intersections in the state, measured by volume of accidents

reported. It’s easy to explain fender benders at the Washington Road

circle, where drivers jockey for places as if they are rounding a

curve at Monte Carlo. And at Nassau Park, known for its frustrating

traffic patterns, drivers try to push yellow lights to get out on

Route 1, and they get into trouble.

But another problem at the Nassau Park light is that southbound Route

1 drivers are frantically switching lines to choose the right fork

(supposedly to the malls) or the left fork (to I-295/195). We’ve seen

drivers of huge trucks, alarmed at the prospect of losing their chance

to get to I-295, brashly veering to the left lanes. They don’t realize

that all lanes will end up merged together in just a few hundred feet

and that, once on the left, they will have trouble getting back to

the right to make their turn.

This kind of confusion haunts the well-established traffic pattern

at Nassau Park. So you can imagine that a temporary pattern causes

even more confusion. Did you notice the egregious lack of signage

for northbound drivers on Route 1 at the new exits for Meadow Road

and Carnegie Center Boulevard? For the first six months, only those

familiar with the construction process would have known to take the

service road that would lead them safely into the Carnegie Center.

Everyone else had to make a right turn at Carnegie Boulevard (a turn

that is now illegal) or be shunted up to the Alexander Road exit.

As they have been doing for more than 15 years, U.S. 1’s intrepid

drivers again braved Route 1 for the survey. For some runs the traffic

was so improved that they could travel at the speed limit — a

real challenge when you are using one hand to drive and the other

to write down the time at which you pass through an intersection.

Thanks go to Mary Ann Davison, Robert Eveleigh, Jack Florek, Barbara

Fox, Henry MacAdam, Lynn Miller, Nicole Plett, Marie Rendine, and

Robert Yuell. See the results, page 43.


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