Agreement prepares area for the future

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:57

    To the Editor In a recent letter published in this newspaper, Mr. Scott Olson attacked State Senator Robert Littell for his efforts to act on behalf of all residents of Byram Township regarding the improvements to Route 206. I am pleased that he chose Senator Littell’s congratulatory words for everyone working in the collaborative process. Those words were well stated by Senator Littell and, to the credit of all involved, the collaborative process continued to an agreed upon conclusion some months later. That collaborative process included the township council, local business owners and residents, county officials and the DOT. There were public sessions in Byram as well as advertised council meetings at the DOT in Mt. Arlington. Questions from anyone were allowed and answered. If answers were not readily available, the DOT promised them. The result of this process was a resolution passed by the Byram Township Council in October 2003 endorsing many improvements to Route 206, including the widening to five lanes. The DOT agreed to pave a portion of the highway to five lanes but open it to only three lanes until objective criteria required the other two lanes be opened. The DOT has agreed to sidewalks, a pedestrian/bicycle underpass and other improvements to make this one-mile section of highway a boulevard consistent with the township vision of a Village Center. The widening of the highway will be almost 100 percent within the 80 foot DOT right-of-way. To meet new storm water regulations, the DOT came back to Byram and advised that the width of the highway would have to expand from the agreed upon 58 feet to 64 feet. Subsequently, the DOT agreed to try to reduce that to 62 feet or about the highway width now in front of Byram Plaza. They have done so. At a May 10, 2005 meeting attended by a good cross-section of township residents and businesspersons, the DOT heard concerns about property takings on Waterloo Road. The DOT went back to the drawing boards and they have now satisfied those residents. Mr. Olson continues to muddy the waters on the improvement of Route 206 while at the same time encouraging the development of the Village Center that will bring traffic related to 126 new residences and many shops as well as recreation areas and public buildings. He has brought in a number of outside experts who have come both misinformed and, in one case, ‘unprepared’ with his most recent study that showed the need to widen the highway. That expert stated three times that widening may well be the only answer. Prior to running to become mayor, I attended almost all township council meetings for two years voicing my interest in improving Route 206 at every meeting. Indeed, when I applied twice for vacant council seats I was rejected, likely due to my open support of Route 206 widening. I was elected in November 2002 on a pro-widening plank and re-elected this past May 10 with the same plank in my platform. Our police department cites the traffic hazard and the fire department and EMS volunteers have told of response delays when responding to emergencies. After more than 15 years in the funding, collaborative decision-making and engineering processes, the much needed improvements to Route 206 must go forward. The 1920s highway just can’t meet the challenge of 2005 traffic. As it is, one Olson expert has concluded, in a study he forgot to bring with him, that: “By 2020 one in four vehicles traveling in Sussex County will be a heavy truck, a figure which helps explain why travel delays there are forecasted to grow 14 times longer.” Byram Township’s environment, economy and quality of life can no longer take the existing levels of accidents, emergency response delays and air pollution much less the experts projection for an average one hundred percent per year projected growth in traffic. As mayor of Byram Township, I want to thank State Senator Robert Littell and the many other local, county, slate and federal officials who are supporting this process. To the many taxpayers who continue to contact me in support of my efforts, thank you. Eskil S. Danielson, Byram Mayor