Regular travelers on Rt. 15 will have noticed a recent addition near the new ShopRite shopping center- a traffic light which has been installed, but is not yet functioning.
The roadway has also been widened and repainted to add turning lanes into the retail complex and housing development. With the supermarket set to open its doors sometime this fall, other businesses being built or nearing completion, and the homes slowly becoming occupied, it remains to be seen how much the new influx of vehicles will affect the traffic along the corridor between Sparta and Lafayette, but the Sparta Police Department is keeping a watchful eye on the site as construction progresses.
“We don’t yet know the extent of what the traffic will be until everything is operational,” Sparta Police Lt. John Lamon said. “It’s still mostly construction traffic, so for now, we’re taking a wait and see approach. But once we start adding a couple thousand people or cars a day to that infrastructure, we may have problems.”
Lamon said that one of the biggest factors in how vehicles will flow through the new signal and intersection will be the timing of the traffic light itself.
“We don’t know how that light will be synced yet,” he said. “We’re not sure if it will be synced up with the lights at White Lake Road or Houses Corner, or if it will be timed on its own. But that’s not our decision. Because it’s a state road, it’s up to the NJDOT.”
Lamon fears that between the new traffic signal and the work being done to replace the bridge decks of the Rt. 15 overpass over Main Street, people will begin using side roads to avoid the highway, running the risk of breaking down that infrastructure.
“Some of these side roads have weight restrictions and aren’t made for commercial traffic,” Lamon said. "And I foresee getting a lot of noise complaints, too, if people start cutting through neighborhoods that aren’t designed for thru traffic. And with school buses getting back on the road, people just may find that the ‘shortcuts’ they’re taking aren’t very short after all.”
For the moment, Lamon and his patrol officers will have to handle any new traffic issues that arise.
“We’ll have to adjust accordingly,” he said, “It’s all up in the air right now. When I went to the DOT meeting, they gave no indication of when they’d be activating the new signal. But it’s their highway, and ultimately, they make the decisions. We will just have to deal with things as they come.”