Senator not responding to calls for help with 206 expnasion plans

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    SUSSEX COUNTY-The Byram council is trying to reach State Senator Robert Littell to seek his help in arranging a meeting with the state Department of Transportation, but Littell is not answering the call. In an effort to continue discussions with the state concerning the Route 206 expansion plan, Councilman Earl Riley placed calls to Littell hoping the senator could pull a few strings and arrange a meeting with state officials. But Riley has heard only silence on the other end of the phone. "I left two voice messages and have had no reply. Nothing. But I am not going to stop leaving messages," said Riley. Despite the fact that in the past Littell has publicly said that he does not support Byram's efforts to change the proposed plans, Riley and other council members were hoping that Littell would help arrange a meeting to give the municipality a chance to restate its position. "We just want to sit down with the DOT," said Riley. "That is all we are asking is to have a conversation." The council has expressed concern that the public and the state may have misunderstood its position with regard to the project. In October 2003 the council passed a resolution in support of a procedure whereby the state would solicit and include the council's input on the plan. But according to Riley, there has never been a joint planning session since the resolution was passed. Instead, the council only received the state's final decision. "What we expected was an ongoing dialog concerning the overall design of the highway," said Riley. "I expected we would have input on things like crosswalk coloring, center island design with greenery. Our vision was to have the town center area have a boulevard feeling. The latest (state) design does not reflect that." In addition, the council members are concerned that the plan is outdated and does not include the latest innovations in highway planning and design. "We agreed to the widening (in 2003) but their own planning methodologies have changed since then, but they won't change the plan," said the councilman. Riley admits that not everything has been a one way street. "To the DOT's credit, they took our suggestion and realigned Lackawanna Drive to the south much to our satisfaction, improving safety and circulation." And Riley says most of the plan might be just fine. All Byram officials want is a chance to review it face to face with DOT officials. "Everything could be okay. But it is difficult to tell on paper. We need to meet with them to determine where everything stands."