Officials make their case for expanding Newton-Sparta Road

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    SUSSEX COUNTY-Any construction is still far down the road, but county officials behind proposed improvements to Newton-Sparta Road are already looking for detours along the way. The county is in the process of applying for federal funds to address safety and traffic congestion along a seven-mile stretch of Newton-Sparta Road from Woodside Avenue in Newton to the Route 517 bypass in Sparta. The project is expected to cost $10-15 million and any construction would not commence before 2010, said John Risko, assistant county engineer. Newton-Sparta Road is arguably the most important, but certainly the most traveled roadway in the county and the site of numerous accidents in recent years, said Risko. Corey L. Stoner, of Harold E. Pellow & Associates, a design consultant for the project, said in the past six years, there have been some 500 accidents reported along the roadway, 230 of them in Andover. He said from 1999-2001, 150 accidents were reported along the Sparta portion of Newton-Sparta Road. "A lot has to do with commercial access where people are stopping to make a left-hand turn," said Stoner. "There's probably been 200 rear-end collisions." Stoner said 13,000 vehicles use the roadway west of Diller Avenue in Newton during an average 24-hour period; 20,000 east of Diller Avenue; and 20,000 in both Andover and Sparta. He said the most traveled portion is at the intersection near Pope John High School to Route 181 in Sparta, where 25,000 vehicles pass during any given 24-hour time frame. Traffic and safety improvements to Newton-Sparta Road may include reconfiguration of existing intersections and lane expansion from 2-4 lanes, particularly in Sparta, where traffic is heaviest, said Stoner. Additional lanes could mean extending the width by 8-10 feet on either side of the street to create a roadway spanning a total of 60-feet wide to accommodate two more lanes, a center median and combined shoulder space, said Stoner. Many Andover residents expressed concern that the proposed changes could put a dent in properties and endanger their children during a meeting this week at Long Pond School, where county officials presented their initial plans for Newton-Sparta Road. A proposed change in the Andover section of the roadway includes the installation of a traffic signal at Yates Avenue, a dedicated right-turn lane at Lawrence Road, and the reconfiguration of bus routes into the Florence M. Burd School. "People are concerned about alternate access," said Stoner. "But, there's no way to bring traffic through via any other roadway. This is the main connection in the county." Changes also might include installation of four left-turn lanes at the intersection with Limecrest Road, shared left-turn lanes at most other intersections and dedicated left-turn lanes into some side streets. County officials said they are taking into consideration the public's comments before drafting a formal plan to complete the scooping phase of the project. Stoner said Sparta residents located within 200 feet along the roadway would be updated on progress. A meeting for residents of Sparta will be scheduled in May.