Byram officials still counting on funds for Route 206 project

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    BYRAM-Despite the fact that the Transportation Trust Fund, the program that pays for major transportation projects, is all but out of money, Byram officials are not yet concerned that state funding for transportation projects planned for the township n specifically Route 206 -- will dry up before work begins. The Department of Transportation plans to move ahead with billions of dollars in highway and mass transit projects even though it does not have enough money to complete them, state officials said. The DOT list includes a $26.5 million plan and design for a 1.2-mile stretch of Route 206 through the center of town. State transportation officials are counting on covering part of the tab with money from the budget that starts in July 2006. "It's no secret the Trust Fund is just about shot," said township manager Greg Poff. "How that impacts the Route 206 project is best left up to the state." Despite the impending crisis, DOT has not begun to scale down its list of projects. The budget, which starts July 1, 2005, calls for $2.7 billion worth of work, more than ever. "I don't have any way to determine if the funding will be in place or not," said Poff. "At this point, I haven't heard anything to the contrary." DOT is expected to break ground in Byram late next year, but the township council has called for a six-month moratorium on the planning and design of the Route 206 project to give local and state officials more time to address cost-effective, long-term relief for the congested roadway and township planning goals. The council opposes a DOT plan for widening Route 206 by up to five lanes. Township officials made their displeasure known in a strongly worded letter earlier this month to DOT and the Highlands Council, which states, "The moratorium and subsequent planning are critical to the success of the project." Byram officials hope DOT will reassess its plans after considering new transportation planning systems, the township's inclusion in the Highland preservation area, and the state's emphasis on "smart growth." The council majority supports a phased approach to the realignment of intersections, coordination of traffic lights and various pedestrian-friendly improvements to the area from Alcorn Street to the vicinity of Waterloo Village, near the Byram Plaza off Lackawanna Road.