Byram residents complaint their voices are beeing heard when it comes to Route 206

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:45

    BYRAM-Plans for alleviating traffic congestion on Route 206 in Byram are moving along so smoothly, state officials are quick to point out, but some residents want the township to slow down and at least look their way before moving along any further. "It's a public project, the most significant planning project affecting Byram in the last 50 years," said Tina Bologna, a member of the township's architectural review committee and master plan project team. "I think the citizens of the township should have the opportunity to stay informed and be involved at whatever level they choose to be involved at." This week Byram Township manager Greg Poff and staff were scheduled to meet again with Department of Transportation officials to discuss the planned highway expansion, which includes adding a center turning lane to the highway between Acorn Street and Byram Plaza. The meeting was not open to the public or representatives from some township committees connected to the project. Bologna said she would have liked an opportunity to hear DOT officials this week and find out what their plans are, rather than learn months later when her recommendations might be too late to be heard. "The way the town has been doing most of its business has been increasingly to tighten the circle closer and closer," said Bologna. "People in the town who have been very committed and involved have been closed out of having an opportunity to provide input." Poff insisted at a township council meeting this week that the public will continue to have input into any discussion concerning the Route 206 project. The township has had three public meeting in the past two years regarding the nearly $15 million expansion, the most recent in November, when DOT officials discussed drainage deficiencies in the vicinity of Lake Lackawanna Road. "If DOT is coming all the way up from Trenton, you would think that this is something that should involve the public," said Scott Olsen, a seven-year Byram resident who has worked on the township's environmental and architectural review committees and smart growth and master plans. "There's been no chance for public input on this project at all. We've got the county and the state telling us what we want and we haven't had the chance to rebut what we want." Olsen said the township would be wise to listen to the public, especially from residents who have volunteered their time and expertise. "I've spent countless hours on these committees and to have someone say we'll get your input later," said Olsen. "That's what we hear every time. And every time it comes back with more has been decided and there's no chance to discuss it." But DOT officials, including Dennis Keck, assistant commissioner for planning and development, have applauded Byram's approach to the road expansion, calling it an example of smart growth and something they would like to see across the Highlands preservation lands. DOT plans to widen north and southbound approaches to Route 206 to two through lanes and create an exclusive left-turn lane as well as realign Waterloo Road with Brookwood Road. Both roads also will be widened to consist of a right-turn lane and a shared left-turn and through lanes. Work is scheduled to begin late next year. "There are a lot of people buzzing about what those changes are," said Bologna. "Nothing has really been shown to the town yet. I understand we're not elected officials, but we elected those people and it's only fair that we can hear them speak and know what their position is."