Public asked to comment on how tunnel closure will affect their lives

Byram. Although work won’t start for years, the Byram council wants residents to think now about the consequences of a detour lasting 6 to 18 months, and the prospect of state highway traffic moving through their neighborhoods.

Byram /
| 28 Sep 2021 | 05:51

Beginning in 2025, the Route 206 tunnel may be closed from six up to 18 months, with traffic taking detours through Byram neighborhoods. Even though the project will not start for years, the time for the public to comment is now.

At their Sept. 21 meeting, the Byram Township Council reviewed the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s plans, which include rerouting traffic through Roseville Road, around CO Johnson Park, to Tamarack Road. The state plans to replace culvert underneath the road.

Township Manager Joseph Sabatini said the transportation department asked the township to publish a notice informing residents about a virtual information center open for public comment at Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said the window for comment, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 10, is very short.

State transportation official will come to the affected municipalities to present its plans for the tunnel rehabilitation project.

The Pequest River runs under Route 206 and under the tunnel, which will make the rehabilitation more difficult, Sabatini said. He has already participated in meetings with the transportation department and representatives of affected communities. Mayor Rubenstein and Councilwoman Cris Franco also attended the meetings.

Sabatini said the mayor and council expressed their concerns to the transportation department about how the detour will affect the township as it brings state highway traffic onto local roads not designed for this level of activity, and the likelihood of more accidents.

Rubenstein said it was extraordinarily important for the state to hear from the public.

“The DOT will do what it does,” he said.

However, the township would like to receive extra grant money to compensate for the expected greater wear and tear on the roads.

Councilman Harvey Roseff recommended having meetings and forming ad hoc groups with the other affected towns, getting the support of their state senator and assembly members.

“Build up the strength to push back and get compensation,” Roseff said.

He said the transportation department should include the “ancillary costs, generated by their action,” in their plans before the project starts.

Franco said the public should tell the transportation department about the truck traffic and heavier vehicles going through all of the neighborhoods. She recommended that the truck traffic be directed through Limecrest Road and up through Route 15, which are more suited for heavier vehicles.

Franco said she would not be surprised if the project takes much longer than anticipated and encouraged residents to give their comments on the website. However, she said, none of the comments already given to the transportation department were taken into consideration.

Deputy Mayor Raymond Bonker said the feedback should make clear that the Byram Township mayor and council “do not endorse this plan.”

The 1910 tunnel was one of many structures built between 1908 and 1911 as part of the construction of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad’s New Jersey cutoff, according to the one of the informational documents offered by the township. Visit to access a folder that includes project details and meeting minutes.

BARKS: Mayor Rubenstein said the township is in discussions with the Byram Animal Rescue Kindness Squad (BARKS) about the possibility of staying on. The BARKS contract expired Dec. 31, 2020, and the township decided not to renew for financial reasons. The animal shelter was allowed to remain in the building another six months.
Open Space Committee: Mayor Rubenstein was appointed to the Open Space Committee in a 3-1 vote. Councilman Roseff opposed the appointment, saying he was concerned about eliminating “an independent voice,” other than a council member or administrator, on the committee. Councilman Bonker said the seat was open for more than a year, and all the other committee members endorsed the idea. Councilman Jack Gallagher was absent.
Verizon dead zone: Mayor Rubenstein said Verizon will install small cells along Amity Road to fix a dead zone by the end of the year.
Elizabethtown Natural Gas: Mayor Rubenstein said Elizabethtown and the Board of Public Utilities signed a municipal consent order to allow natural gas distribution to around 120 homes in the Lake Mohawk area.
New Jersey Natural Gas: Mayor Rubenstein said the council will meet with New Jersey Natural Gas to review the status, costs, and next steps.
Forest Lakes tree removal: Mayor Rubenstein said JCP&L asked for permission to remove 56 trees in Forest Lakes to improve power reliability. He encouraged residents to be as cooperative as possible if they receive tags from the company.
ShopRite’s Help Bag Hunger Day: Mayor Rubenstein said he and Councilman Bonker, Councilwoman Franco, the Byram police chief and police officers, Lakeland’s chief, and Lakeland EMS helped bag groceries to highlight awareness of ongoing hunger in communities. During September, ShopRite helped raise money in stores for organizations fighting hunger.
“The DOT will do what it does.” Mayor Alex Rubenstein