WEST ORANGE – Senator Richard J. Codey yesterday requested that the State Department of Transportation (DOT) stop treating Route 280 like the “illegitimate step-child of Jersey’s highways” and address traffic complications caused by even the slightest bit of inclement weather.
“Yesterday’s morning commute was absolutely brutal, but for commuters who depend on the highway to get to work every day, it’s nothing new,” said Senator Codey, D-Essex. “Whether we’re dealing with one inch of snow or ten, Route 280 invariably becomes a parking lot during morning rush hour. It’s long past time that the DOT recognize the effect of bad weather on Route 280’s traffic conditions, and do something to alleviate the problem.”
Senator Codey said that for many years, Route 280 has been neglected during DOT’s snow plow and salting operations, with trucks only getting to the highway after traffic has already come to a standstill. The Essex County lawmaker attributed Route 280’s traffic problems during inclement weather to the road’s steep grade – the steepest grade of any Interstate highway in the nation – from a below-street-level dip by the Parkway to a major climb around First Mountain in West Orange. As a result, minor precipitation becomes “a complete disaster” during the already congested morning commute.
“The DOT has to recognize the design problems facing Route 280, and should make the highway first on the list when it comes to Statewide winter weather clean-ups,” said Senator Codey. “Instead, every year, it seems like Route 280 is the last highway to be addressed, with clean-up crews only arriving after traffic is already jammed. The commuters along Route 280 pay their fair share in taxes, and deserve a little bit of service from the State.”
Senator Codey called Acting DOT Commissioner James Simpson yesterday, and expressed hope that the issues with clean-up on Route 280 would be resolved soon. He said that he plans to hold Commissioner Simpson to his promise to look into the situation, and added that he was encouraged, especially given the Commissioner’s experience as a former tractor-trailer driver prior to his stint in public service, that the problems on Route 280 would finally be addressed.
“As someone who used to depend on road conditions to provide for his family, I think Commissioner Simpson will be sensitive to the issues we face on Route 280,” said Senator Codey. “Not only is it an inconvenience for drivers who have to sit in hours of snarled traffic, but it becomes a safety concern for those people behind the wheel. I think all parties recognize we have to do a better job cleaning up the Route 280 traffic nightmare during bad weather, and I am encouraged that this DOT Commissioner at least understands our concerns.”