I-80 Rehab Project Underway, Residents Still Have Concerns
Littleton Road corridor residents have a list of requests to minimize what they'll have to endure as the 2-plus year construction project goes on.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation is moving full steam ahead on its $73 million rehabilitation of Interstate 80 in Parsippany despite concerns of residents in the Littleton Road corridor.
Work on the project was slated to begin over the past weekend, according to department spokesperson Timothy Greeley.
The project, officials say, will address approximately four linear miles of eastbound and westbound travel lanes on I-80 and will mean a reconfiguration of the I-80 eastbound exit ramp to both directions of I-287 and the Route 202/Littleton Road northbound ramp to eastbound I-80.
Greeley said the goal is to provide safer and more efficient traffic flow throughout the corridor.
Residents in the Littleton Road/Lake Parsippany area have raised concerns over the placement of a construction staging site right at Littleton Road near Marcella and Kingston roads. Trees in the area were cleared in early August, leaving a stretch of dirt and eliminating much of the buffer that protected residents from the sound of the expressway.
"The project was not supposed to start until Aug. 28," said Mary Purzycki, who lives near the staging site. "The DOT had a responsibility to meet with the town and get the plan okayed before anything was done and they didn't.
"The construction company [Union Paving & Construction Co.] jumped the gun."
Greeley said that is not true.
"The area in question is state right-of-way, so the contractor didn't need an OK from Parsippany," he told Patch. "Aug. 28 was a tentative date for the start of construction. That date was expedited, and the contractor [started last] weekend."
Regarding a pre-construction meeting with township officials, Greeley said that no one from Parsippany attended.
Purzycki said she had heard that news too.
"The NJDOT forgot to inform the township of the initial construction planning meeting once the contract was awarded to Union Paving and Construction Co.," she said. "Once the NJDOT realized this, they should have put a hold on the construction site so that the township would be allowed to voice their concerns. The DOT's excuse was people were on vacation! Give me a break!"
Greeley said he is "looking into truth of this."
"I don't know if there was a miscommunication," he told Patch. "I'll need to dig into that. That type of coordination between the department and the municipality is something we strive to make a big part of our projects."
He insisted that NJDOT wants to do whatever is possible to minimize any inconvenience to residents.
"We're going to be in Parsippany for the better part of two-plus years," he said. "We've met with township engineers and police regarding safety access, increased signange or striping we can do to alleviate those concerns."
However, one perceived problem that will not go away is the staging site.
Purzycki said residents are trying to make their peace with that notion, but that they will fight for other concessions from the NJDOT regarding the site.
"An entrance and exit driveway from the construction staging area should be opened onto the eastbound entrance to I-80 near the cell tower on the state-owned property," she said. "This would eliminate the need for the construction vehicles to use the exit and entrance on Littleton Road at Kingston Road."
She also said residents want a guarantee that no construction vehicles will use local residential streets, including Richard Street and Camden, Everett, Alloway, Marcella and Kingston roads. They also want the speed limit cut from 40 to 30 miles per hour along Littleton near the Park Road traffic signal.
Purzycki also wants protection from construction sounds.
"This is a day and night, six days a week operation," she said. "Parsippany has a noise ordinance which this project has not gotten a waiver for from the town council. Since there are homes less than 200-500 feet from the site, the nighttime and weekend noise must be kept to a minimum during these hours.
"The NJDOT website has a statement that says it cannot enter a town and make changes without the town's consent," she insisted. "What happened to our tree and sound ordinances which the Union Paving Company didn't respect?"
Greeley said the trees will be replaced and that netting will surround the area to lessen the sound of construction during the project.
"We're also looking into changing the exit of the staging site," he said. "We've had conversations with some concerned residents, and the idea has been expressed directly to our resident engineer and the community relations office. We have our traffic safety engineers looking at this along with the signage issue.
"Parsippany Police broached the idea of changing the signage and striping, and we're delving into whether it's feasbile to accommodate that request from the residents."
Greeley said the department understands that the proximity of the staging area would create some impact for residents.
The department wants to do what we can to minimize that impact," he said. "It's all under consideration now. Hopefully we can do something to better accommdate the residents."
On Aug. 15, NJDOT representatives are slated to meet with township administration in a private meeting to discuss these matters, including the replacement of the old-growth trees cleared from the staging site.
Purzycki said the residents have ideas about that too.
"Four- and 6-inch caliper trees should and must be used," she said.
The activist said she is sending a letter enumerating resident concerns to Mayor James Barberio, Police Chief Anthony DeZenzo and Justin Lizza, the town engineer.
"If they won't let us into their meeting, we will be heard."
Meanwhile, the transportation department soon starts construction on a large-scale resurfacing project to address seven miles of I-287 later this month.
"The limits of the two projects overlap at the 80/287 interchange, but the construction is being coordinated to ensure that the projects will not impact or interfere with each other," said a NJDOT statement.
This area has been a focus of infrastructure improvement in recent years as the NJDOT just completed a $6.4 million bridge deck replacement on I-80 over I-287 northbound and Smith Road last month. In late 2010, NJDOT completed an almost $10 million project which realigned the ramp from I-80 westbound onto I-287 northbound, the ramp from I-287 northbound onto I-80 westbound and the ramp from Littleton Road to I-287 northbound.