Following years of serious and sometimes deadly crashes along Manchester's stretch of Route 70, the Township Council approved a resolution Monday evening urging New Jersey officials to complete a traffic study and evaluation of the state highway.
Since January of this year, Route 70 has seen 44 motor vehicle crashes. Of those, one person was killed and 18 crash caused "serious bodily injury," according to the council. In 2011, four people were killed in crashes along the state highway. A total of 197 crashes occurred that year, with 54 of them causing serious injury, the council said.
"The state Department of Transportation has failed to move forward with a greatly needed plan to widen this section of Route 70 and address these serious concerns," states the council resolution directed to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Manchester officials and 10th Legislative District representatives.
The resolution passed by the council urges the NJDOT to evaluate Route 70 in Manchester to "determine a solution to alleviate traffic and address the often dangerous and fatal accidents" on the highway.
Last week, two serious incidents occurred on the same day. A 60-year-old township man was killed in one of those crashes.
Council President Craig Wallis said that inattentive drivers, rather than the highway itself, seem to be the problem.
"There aren't physical problems with cars or medical reasons of people," he said. "We need to pay attention when driving on these roads."
The council has petitioned the state before for help with what it in the resolution calls a "dangerous and potentialy fatal stretch of road." Members decided again to urge the state to take action last month.
"It seems that we're reading about these accidents too frequently," said council Vice President Brendan Weiner at the governing body's March 12 regular meeting.
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.
Dual lanes in each direction of the highway — which runs through Manchester from the township's borders with Toms River to the east and Pemberton to the west — 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."
Patrolman Doug Higgins of the Manchester Township Police Department's Traffic Safety Section has also weighed in on the issue, saying that center lane barriers would likely cut back on the amount of serious crashes on the highway.