• Joseph F. Berenato

Traffic study for White Horse Pike intersections

HAMMONTON—A traffic study will soon be conducted to examine what is considered to be one of the more dangerous corridors in Hammonton, town officials said.


According to Public Works Manager Robert Vettese, a meeting was held several months ago between officials from Hammonton, Atlantic County and the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding the intersections of Central Avenue, the White Horse Pike, Seagrove Avenue and Pleasant Mills Road, “possibly trying to improve the turning movements at the lighted intersection and maybe making some revisions to the intersection with Pleasant Mills Road and the White Horse Pike.”


“The outcome of that meeting was that DOT said that someone needs to do a traffic study of those intersections. The county said that, since there are two county roadways and one municipal roadway—the county roadways being Pleasant Mills Road and Central Avenue, and the municipal road being Seagrove Avenue—they can have their traffic consultant do a study out there,” Vettese told The Gazette.


This traffic study was authorized by an approved motion introduced by the town solicitor, Michael Malinsky, at the October 26 meeting of town council.


“The agreement calls for a traffic study at a cost not to exceed $50,000, with the county being responsible for a not-to-exceed amount of $35,000 and the town being responsible for a not-to-exceed amount of $15,000, with the county paying for the traffic study and then invoicing the town for their portion that they are responsible for,” Malinsky said at that meeting.


Vettese said that the results of the study, along with recommendations, would then be sent to DOT.


“Then they would review the recommendations with the town and make sure everybody’s in agreement with that. From there, they’d see what the state might be able to do,” he said.


Vettese outlined some of the town’s hopes for the outcome of the traffic study.


“What the town would like—and DOT has to look into it, and that’s why they went through the study—but the hope is that the town would be able to either terminate the intersection of the White Horse Pike and Pleasant Mills Road, or allow only right turns in if you’re going westbound. If you’re coming from Egg Harbor City, you would be able to make a right onto Pleasant Mills Road and continue wherever you want to go on it,” he said.


That traffic corridor, Vettese said, is precarious.


“The dangerous aspect is exiting Pleasant Mills Road onto the White Horse Pike, because it’s at an angle and a little bit of a steep slope, too. People who want to make that left-hand turn and head towards Egg Harbor City, it’s not the safest. People fly around that bend on the pike by the lake, and you don’t have much time to react. You’re looking at the traffic at the light, and the people coming around the bend, so you have to make a decision on what you want to do,” Vettese said.


Town engineer Dave Cella agreed.


“If you look, historically, through that corridor, making a left-hand turn going towards Batsto is a tough turn with the light there, with coming around the lake; lines of sight are tough,” Cella said.


Rerouting traffic would be a way to ameliorate the danger, Vettese said.

“The goal would be for people who want to come down Pleasant Mills Road and go anywhere along the White Horse Pike to make the turn at Main Road and come to Seagrove Avenue, then use the light to make their turn safer,” he said.


Cella explained further.


“When you bring traffic to a signalized intersection, that is a safer intersecting point on flows of traffic because it’s controlled. When you’re coming a stopped intersection—in that case, coming out onto the pike—you’ve got speed differentials coming around that corner that start to influence the flow of traffic. I’m sure you’ve traveled down a state road and had people pull out in front of you and go slow. That speed differential is what can cause traffic incidents to occur,” Cella said.


According to the data that Malinsky provided to council at their July 27 meeting, between July 6, 2019 and July 7, 2020, there have been 23 accidents at those intersections.


“If you start to eliminate that interaction, you make that whole intersection safer. It really gets down to how the flow of the county road traffic and the state road traffic interact with each other. It’s higher volumes of traffic that are controlled better, and, if there are some improvements done to that signal, it makes it a safer environment for the commuting public,” Cella said.


One way to rework the traffic flow—and which Vettese said is being discussed between town and county officials—would be to exchange responsibility of Pleasant Mills Road and Seagrove Avenue.


“The county route for Pleasant Mills Road and Central Avenue is 542; we want to change it from Central Avenue to Seagrove Avenue—which would then also be 542—then it would go to Main Road, then continue down Pleasant Mills Road. It would be a safer movement for all traffic that way. The town would then take over the section of Pleasant Mills Road (from Main Road to the White Horse Pike), and we might maybe turn that into a cul-de-sac or something like that so people that live along Pleasant Mills Road could still, rather than going out to the pike, they would have to go back around to Main Road then go down Seagrove Avenue to go to the light, making it safer,” Vettese said.


Cella said that the town taking over a county route “shouldn’t be a major deal.”


“You have to look at what the traffic pattern is going to be, if you allow people to come out onto the pike or not, or does all traffic get routed around to Seagrove? There could be some challenges to the traffic flow through there. That would be part of the overall view of the project,” he said.


However, Cella said that there are several challenges involved with such a switch.


“First, there’s the legal requirement that we need to make sure our solicitor and their solicitor agree to whatever terms they need to legally do it correctly,” he said.


Additionally, there are several engineering issues.


“That would involve some improvements to Seagrove Avenue to get it up to county standards and not local road standards ... Seagrove is a narrower road. There are some environmental constraints to widening that road. It’s a narrower section, so you’re going to have to clear some trees back and get the lines of sight a little better. That will increase the amount of traffic that’s coming to the signal, which is something that the state would need to upgrade—or be part of the project to upgrade,” Cella said.


There are also water concerns with the project.


“There’s some lower-lying areas with drainage that are going to be a concern when they come to rebuild the road in there ... As with any road, you have to deal with the geometry of the road, and where’s the rainwater runoff going to run and how you manage that. I think that’ll be one of the major challenges on Seagrove,” he said.


Additionally, there will be repercussions for property owners in the affected area.


“When you look at some of the uses along there, you look at Sofia’s Supreme Subs & More, that corner gets impacted, too, by us bringing that traffic down there and how you come in and out of that property,” Cella said.


One difficulty Cella noted—until or unless such time as the remaining section of Pleasant Mills Road between Main Road and the White Horse Pike terminates in a cul-de-sac, as Vettese mentioned, or something similar—will be getting the traffic flow to follow the new pattern.


“Assuming this comes to fruition, as with any change in traffic pattern, you have to bring awareness to the commuting public. To do that, I’ve seen at times, like when we put new stop signs in, we’ll put flashing lights on the stop sign so people are aware. There’s probably going to need to be some type of notification, say, if you’re coming from Batsto towards town that directs you down Main Road as opposed to going down Pleasant Mills to the pike,” Cella said.


Such notifications would be achieved, Cella said, through signage and other means.


“If the county route changes and goes in a different direction, there would be notification through signs that would bring it to your attention. When you look at that intersection, even from a striping standpoint, you probably would align Main Road and Pleasant Mills Road a little bit so that you know you’re going to the right as opposed to going straight ... We’re pretty far away, I think, from that happening, to be into that detail yet, but there are ways to get the traffic pattern reset. That’s something that would be one of the challenges of doing it,” he said.


All of this is incumbent on the results of the traffic study, which Vettese said is still being organized.


“The county forwarded the agreement and the town signed it. I don’t know how long it’s going to take them to do the study. It’s in the county’s hands now. Once they do that, we’ll look at the results of that and then we’ll have to formulate, accept it or make comments associated with what those outcomes are,” Vettese said.