NJ Turnpike bottleneck about to be broken

 Undated file photo of construction work on the New Jersey Turnpike. (Photo courtesy of NJDOT)

Undated file photo of construction work on the New Jersey Turnpike. (Photo courtesy of NJDOT)

For many New Jersey commuters, the daily obstacle course through construction signs and cone zones is a numbing and mundane experience. On the New Jersey Turnpike between Exit 6 (Mansfield) and Exit 9 (East Brunswick) road work has been going on for four straight years. While we put up with it, most of us have no idea what the goal is and most importantly when will it end.

You’ll be happy to know that we’re much closer to the end of this project than we are to the start.

Tom Feeney, spokesman for the NJ Turnpike Authority, said that the construction is part of the Interchange 6 to 9 Widening Program, an ongoing project that he expects will vastly improve traffic movement in several of the Turnpike’s chronically problematic areas. One area that he hopes will see major improvements is the juncture near exit 8a where the Turnpike’s division of inner car lanes and outer truck lanes converge into a three-lane roadway.

“The merge is the most congested spot on either of the two roadways,” Feeney said of this area. “On holiday weekends it’s routinely backed up by 15 to 20 miles. It’s the worst bottleneck on the Turnpike.”

That’s not the only troubled zone the Turnpike routinely experiences. Who can forget the truck that smashed into the I-95 overpass near exit 7a last October, shutting down both sides of the Turnpike for five hours? And the far more recent north and southbound accidents near the same exit that caused lane closures on the Wednesday leading up to last Fourth of July weekend? With the new lane additions, this section of the turnpike should be able to maintain better traffic flow while handling accidents and closures.

The massive Widening Program began in the summer of 2009, and by the time it’s complete it will have turned this section of the Turnpike into a dual-dual highway. This means that there will be twelve lanes in total – that’s six lanes in each direction, with three for cars/trucks/buses and three for cars only.

“We’re on schedule and should complete construction next year,” Feeney said. He explained that the new lanes will be finished by next summer, which is when traffic will be moved exclusively onto these fresh lanes while the existing lanes are repaved.

“By Thanksgiving of next year the full project will be open,” Feeney laughed. “Just in time for the holidays!”

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