New Jersey Department of Transportation officials and concerned Parsippany residents finally met face to face in a Monday night. The subject of the gathering was the currently in progress.
The due to the presence of a construction staging site at Littleton between Kingston and Marcella roads. Those who live nearby have stated objections including the removal of old-growth trees that served as a sound buffer between the highway and residential homes, the removal of road shoulder on Littleton Road, the presence of construction vehicles in neighborhoods and what they say are increasingly dangerous conditions for motorists and pedestrians in the area.
The NJDOT agreed to the meeting after a group of about a dozen residents led by Mary Purzycki of Marcella Road took the initiative to contact officials numerous times to first, request that the staging site be moved elsewhere—an idea that was rejected—and secondly, to insist upon compromises in the name of public safety and residents' quality of life.
When the department finally proposed a meeting, according to spokesperson Timothy Greeley, it was expected that town officials (who somehow were not invited to a preconstruction meeting held weeks ago) and NJDOT officials and contractor representatives would attend along with Purzycki and her handful of concerned neighbors.
"This meeting was an opportunity for a few resident representatives... so that we could provide them with direct answers on [their] concerns that have been building the last couple of weeks," Greeley told Patch.
Instead, he said about 75 citizens showed up.
Media were not invited to attend the gathering.
According to Greeley, the department did what it could to mollify people living in the area, but all requests could not be granted.
"Residents asked if our construction vehicles could enter and exit the staging site directly onto I-80 eastbound to avoid using the local Littleton Road/US 202 on the south side of the staging area, closest to their homes," he said. "We cannot accommodate them because it would be unsafe for the trucks as well as for motorists on I-80. We simply cannot have slow-to-accelerate trucks merging onto an active freeway."
Some, however, were considered and okayed, he said.
"They asked if we could ensure that construction vehicles, including those of construction workers, could be kept off of their neighborhood streets that intersect with Littleton Road," he said. "We said the construction vehicles and crews will not need to use local streets, except to travel along Littleton Road/Frontage Road to get from 202 southbound to our staging area and get to the slip ramp that provides access to I-80 eastbound."
Residents shared their concern about nighttime construction.
"There will be some overnight trips between the staging area and work sites after the end of the year, but they will be far fewer than what will occur in the first few months," he said. "The overnight work on I-80 involves the use of large pieces of equipment to crush, or rubblize, the existing roadway."
Regarding the requested erection of barriers, Greeley said that by the end of year, the contractor will be able to install barriers along I-80, behind which large pieces of equipment will be stored when not in use, and where construction crews will be able to park their personal vehicles.
He added that much of the noisiest work will take place away from residents who live near the staging area.
Additionally, he said the department will try to add more signage and road striping to help keep drivers safe, along with restoring the Littleton Road shoulder.
"A significant part of the project involves demolishing an existing noise wall between I-80 eastbound and Littleton Road to make way for a new slip ramp that will provide a new access route from 202 northbound to I-80 eastbound, and then rebuilding the noise wall," Greeley explained. "This work is expected to occur during weekdays only and [will] last for approximately nine months. Weekends and evenings would be needed for work hours only if the schedule slips due to weather or other factors. Once this new ramp from 202 northbound to I-80 east is opened, traffic will no longer roar along Littleton Road to the slip ramp that now serves these motorists.
"This will be a benefit to the residents."
Purzycki offered a different view of the proceedings, which she called "interesting, to say the least."
"First [officials] wanted to know why so many residents showed up," she said. "They said we were supposed to bring 15 people. I said, no, the meeting was open to all residents but closed to the press."
And Purzycki complained about the project design, which she characterized as "a nightmare."
"They are only 100 feet apart," she said. "And one crosses over the other at the wrong point. I wonder what engineer read that computer-generated plan. He should be terminated."
Another meeting open to the community is planned for Sept. 13.