This article was first published in the June 29-July 6, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times. By Jay Cook |COLTS NECK – Long-sought relief for one of the more headache-inducing intersections in Monmouth County is on the way.The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders secured $21.3 million in federal funding from the Federal Highway Administration last week to revamp and redesign the Route 34 and CR-537 intersection, along with a pair of bridges that run through the heart of Colts Neck.“This is great news for everyone who travels through the most congested intersection in the county,” Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry said in a statement.Burry, a former Colts Neck mayor and business owner in the township, said she was “elated about this development, knowing first-hand the challenges of traveling through this location and being personally involved for nearly two decades in working to make these improvements.”Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone said in the statement that the financing for this project would cure many of the issues at that intersection, as well as the two bridges that cross over Mine Brook.The Mine Brook bridge over CR-537, about 120 feet west of the intersection, was built in 1920 and is in serious condition due to “severe spalling and concrete deterioration,” county officials said.The bridge covering Mine Brook across Route 34, constructed in 1930, is in fair condition, but due to a combination of visual assessments and concrete core drilling, replacement has been recommended, according to the release.The project’s total price tag rounds out at $21.5 million, with Monmouth County covering the shortfall in the federal funding. It comes nearly one year after public information sessions were held with residents to discuss the project.It also provides a proverbial sigh of relief for the current Colts Neck administration, which has heard from dissatisfied residents for years about prolonged congestion.“If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me about that intersection – when’s it going to get done – I’d probably be retired by now,” joked Colts Neck Mayor Russell Macnow earlier this week.Macnow said when the intersection backs up from Garden State Parkway or Route 18 traffic, additional cars circumvent the area and make their way through residential neighborhoods not designed to accommodate high volumes of traffic.Although part of a different plan, this project is the second of two major improvements slated for this stretch of roadway.In late April and early May, the New Jersey Department of Transportation announced to the public its intention to replace approximately 13 miles of Route 34, beginning at the Route 34/CR-537 intersection and stretching to where Routes 34 and 9 meet in Old Bridge.According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), a failing concrete roadway base, built between 1928 and 1930 is the reason for the road replacement. Earlier NJDOT spokesman Stephen Shapiro said that project would cost around $90 million.“It’s a pretty substantial project and one that we’ve been pushing for many years,” Macnow said, adding that it will not begin for another two to three years.Regarding the Route 34 and CR-537 intersection project, Macnow said the motorists who use that road “will be pretty pleased with the decrease in travel time and aggravation through that intersection.”The project’s scope includes:Widening of Route 34 to accommodate six lanes along each intersection approach, including an exclusive left turn lane, two through lanes, an exclusive right turn lane, and two receiving lanes.Widening of CR-537 to accommodate five lanes along each intersection approach, including an exclusive left turn lane, a through lane, a thorough/right turn lane, and two receiving lanes.Replacement of the existing traffic signal, including pedestrian improvements.Replacing the CR-537 bridge located approximately 120 feet west of the intersection.Replacing the Route 34 bridge located approximately 400 feet north of the intersection.A bio-retention basin is proposed for the northeast and southeast quadrants. Efforts will be made to avoid or minimize impacts to environmental resources within the project area, which adheres to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Stormwater Management Rules.