After successfully lobbying for a park-and-ride lot in Little Egg Harbor Township, 9th District legislators now want to make sure the same type of lot in Galloway Township will be replaced when a new State Police barracks is built.
State Sen. Chris Connors, R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, said the legislators knew the park-and-ride at the Atlantic City rest area was going to be an issue when they prepared to represent the township in 2011 after redistricting.
In February 2012, plans were unveiled for the construction of a $7 million State Police barracks at the Atlantic City rest area. The project, however, would eliminate commuters' access to an unofficial park-and-ride lot for carpoolers from Jimmie Leeds Road.
Work began at the site of the barracks earlier this summer.
At the time, Galloway Township Mayor Don Purdy said eliminating the park-and-ride would be a major inconvenience for residents. More than a year later, as work is underway at the State Police barracks, Purdy's view has not changed.
"The number one concern with this project from the start for residents has been losing the ability to carpool. This will not only benefit Galloway, but also Absecon, Egg Harbor City and Port Republic for commuters," Purdy said.
The access road will be reconfigured for police use only. Motorists will not be able to access the businesses at the Atlantic City Service Area, but will be permitted to enter and exit the parkway from Jimmie Leeds Road via a new $25 million interchange that will be marked Exit 41.
"We raised the issues we had with the park-and-ride access with the Turnpike Authority, and unfortunately we've been told that based on the way the road approaches are developed, there's no way to spare space for a park and ride any longer," Connors said.
Once the park-and-ride access is closed at the rest area, commuters will only have the Atlantic City Expressway and Atlantic City Bus Terminal as park-and-ride options. Connors said that isn't enough.
The park-and-ride access at the rest area via Jimmie Leeds Road that commuters have enjoyed for years has led to congestion and safety hazards due to the heavy traffic flow, the NJTA determined.
"We need something in and around the Galloway area for a park-and-ride and obviously it's an issue. We think it's needed because you have a number of people who actually commute out of Galloway into Atlantic City and other parts south and north, so it would definitely be utilized effectively," Connors said.
"This is something the people of Galloway have been accustomed to over the years, and now because of other improvements that has ended and we need to find a replacement," he said.
He said the legislators are working with NJTA to accommodate commuters at another park-and-ride location in the township. One of the potential locations that have been identified for another park-and-ride site is at a location near Exit 44, he said.
"We would consider anything else we could do in the area or with a full interchange at Route 30. We're going to try and restore this service the best that we can. We understand there are limits within the scope of the project in the area," he said.
Connors said it is difficult to determine if the push to add a park-and-ride once the current one is eliminated from the Atlantic City rest area will be as tenuous as a similar project in Little Egg Harbor Township. The project has been in the works for several years.
In 2010, 9th District legislators called on the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to establish a commuter park-and-ride area on Route 539 that has been gravel, a dirt lot, filled with potholes and no lighting.
Over the last three years, the legislators continued to lobby for the park-and-ride to be implemented on Route 539 adjacent to the parkway entrance at Exit 58, and last month they announced the project is moving forward.
"If the Galloway project will be as tenuous as the Route 539 site, you just never know. The other project involved the state, NJTA, the county and the township peripherally," he said.