News From Byram

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    BYRAM--State transportation officials are giving the green light for plans to expand lanes on Route 206 to alleviate traffic and improve congestion flow through the center of Byram. About 150 people attended a public meeting in Byram this week to listen to representatives from the state Department of Transportation detail the much-debated plan to widen Route 206 from two to four lanes for 1.2 miles from Acorn Street to the Byram Plaza off Lackawanna Road. "This is an opportunity for the public to see what's on the board," said Byram Mayor Eskil "Skip" Danielson, who supports the expansion. "It's a chance for people to see what DOT is proposing, to ask questions of what is needed, and to possibly give back some good suggestions." Some Byram officials have expressed concern about the $26.5 million plan's ability to reduce congestion on the highway. The township council had been requesting that DOT "re-examine the goals and outcomes" of the plan. "A lot of the people are for it and a lot of the people are against it, but there's a lot of compromise in this plan," said Denice daCunha, a state consulting engineer on the project, who cited center turn lanes and 35 mph speed zones as adopted alternatives. "This plan was preserved with some slight changes to some basic shapes, but it's the same footprints. It's solving a lot of existing sub-standard features." In its recently completed master plan, the township cites a 2004 transportation study that concludes adding more traffic lanes to Route 206 is at best a temporary solution to the increased traffic flow of the section of the highway. The plan goes on to accept the Sussex County report that "bigger roads typically attract more development, more traffic, and more congestion." "DOT is building a mass-transit design for a small-scale community," said Scott Olson, co-founder of North Byram Concerned Citizens, a community group that opposes the planned widening. "They are trying to make Byram a drive-through town and we want to make it a place where people want to stop and visit n a place to come to, not go through." The township wanted to explore a scaled-down version of the project that realigns the intersection of Waterloo and Brookwood roads where traffic usually backs up. Both roads are scheduled to be widened to consist of a right-turn lane and a shared left-turn and through lanes. Karen Minch, a state project manager, said DOT has yet to give a final approval to the plan and will meet with Byram officials again to iron out minor details. Once approved, work is scheduled to begin next year. Sussex County Freeholder Susan Zellman, a resident of nearby Stanhope, said improvements to the current roadway are much needed and long awaited by local commuters who are often forced to sit in daily traffic delays. "I'm happy that we have a plan that is safe and will move people," she said. Byram received an $80,000 smart growth grant from the Office of State Planning to revitalize its downtown, which led to the adoption of land-use principles that focus development toward the stretch of roadway on Route 206. Tammie Horsfield, president of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce, said the Route 206 expansion is good for area businesses. "Byram is the gateway to our county," she said. "Route 206 just doesn't work the way it is. This plan is not just good for business, but it's also good for the quality of life of our residents."