Members of Manchester's Township Council have taken notice of the numerous — and sometimes fatal — crashes along Route 70 and said Monday evening that they will work to bring the problematic stretch of the state highway to the attention of New Jersey officials.
"It seems that we're reading about these accidents too frequently," said council Vice President Brendan Weiner.
Six people were injured in a head-on crash last September on the highway near Washington Avenue. One month later, a three-car crash killed two and injured four. In December, two more lives were lost after a head-on crash near Beckerville Road. Most recently, a head-on crash at the Route 70/571 intersection sent one driver to the hospital with critical injuries. Other crashes involve vehicles leaving the roadway.
Weiner recommended that the council again ask the state Department of Transportation to investigate improving the highway.
"The council has a duty to try to petition, in the form of a resolution or something of that nature — or at least have them look at — doing some improvements to the infrastructure in Manchester," he said.
Though Weiner noted that the crashes may not be entirely preventable, certain measures such as creating a dual highway or installing barriers could help make the stretch through the township safer. The incidents have become a problem, council member Sam Fusaro agreed.
"You read letters and all the police reports of all the accidents and it makes you think about what could be done," he said.
Dual lanes in each direction of the highway could also facilitate evacuations from nearby eastern municipalities, should they ever be necessary, Weiner said.
"These roads are going to be packed with traffic," Weiner said if, for example, a storm forced Point Pleasant residents to flee their homes and come west. "We want to make sure we get all of the residents off the islands and to the inland."
Council President Craig Wallis asked that Clerk Sabina Skibo put the issue on the agenda for the council's next workshop, where it will be considered further by council members.
Manchester should also begin looking at ways to improve its own roadways, Fusaro said.
"I think the township should look internal as well as external at the county and state highways," he said. "We have a lot of roads that are deteriorting — potholes in the residential communities and at critical township intersections."
Fusaro recommended putting in place a plan that identifies the township roads most in need of repair.
Business Administrator Elena Zsoldos said that she met with Wallis and Weiner to discuss a long term plan for repairing Manchester roadways.
"Basically, rating all the roads we have and then doing it in-house," Wallis said.
He also asked that Zsoldos look into ways of completing a bike path near Harry Wright Lake that was paid for through a county grant but falls about 500 feet short of the park entrance because wetlands restrictions.
"If nothing else, I'd ask that you get some options from the public works director of what can be done, what the ballpark [cost] is," Fusaro said, adding that a recent block grant may be an option for
"We've got a tremendous bike path, it just falls a bit short," Fusaro said.