Add to the mix the flow that pours into Tonnelle from the myriad of other township streets and you have the makings of a daily bottleneck.
Guess what? For the foreseeable future, that heavily traveled area is about to become even more of a massive headache.
Work began recently at that intersection, part of the major road reconstruction project along Tonnelle Avenue that will eventually cover the area between the Fairview/North Bergen border on 93rd Street all the way to 43rd Street.
The $38 million state project, which calls for a widening of the road, new sewer lines, and other safety amenities, began last October in the northern end of Tonnelle Avenue.
With the initial part of the project completed, the work has moved its way south - right into the township's most heavily traveled intersection and an area that has been earmarked for another impending project, an overpass to combat the CSX rail problem.
The work on the latest phase of the improvement project has become more extensive, because it has involved blasting to remove tons of rock that had been located at the base of the hill on the northbound side of Tonnelle Avenue for ages.
Turn off cell phones
That is why workers have asked motorists to turn off cell phones, pagers and citizen band radios while traveling the area in the coming weeks, because of the interference the equipment may cause with the blasting.
"It's a difficult area and a much more difficult job because of all of the rocks and the heights going up the hill," North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said last week. "It's caused us a headache and several problems on Tonnelle Avenue and the other streets, but we knew it was going to happen. We have to pay the price now, but in the coming months, it will be a much safer area."
State DOT spokespeople sent out a release that stated that the current work being done in North Bergen will correct a multitude of road woes and safety issues, including adding a sidewalk for pedestrian traffic. With the addition of all the commercial development along the southbound side of Tonnelle Avenue, a sidewalk for pedestrian use was highly necessary.
According to the DOT release, each of the four lanes of Tonnelle Avenue will eventually be widened by a foot.
"The state DOT is trying to address the issue by making it a more comfortable driving situation for motorists," the release said. "Widening the lanes will improve driver safety, so motorists would be able to pass each other without the danger of coming too close to one another."
The release said that the new sewer and drainage system that is being installed will replace the old system that didn't drain standing water off Routes 1&9 efficiently and caused some flooding headaches in the area.
As the work continues, one lane of traffic is closed each way, but that is generally done after the rush hours, to try to insure that there are no pure bottlenecks in the area.
"We do not want to close the road entirely to do work," the release stated. "That would cause too much of a problem."
The state DOT estimated that 34,000 vehicles pass through the intersection on a daily basis, but those estimates were made long before the addition of the new commercial development and the opening of stores like Target, Home Depot and Lowe's Home Improvement.
"Knowing that this was going to take place, we had to make sure that there was some consistent flow of traffic in the area," Sacco said. "Closing the streets altogether to do the work was not an option. It would have caused even more of a bottleneck and it would have had a trickle-down effect to other streets in the town. The work is moving along rather quickly."
For now, both residents and motorists alike aren't appreciating the tie-ups.
"I have to travel Tonnelle Avenue every day," said Alberto Colon, a truck driver and delivery man. "No matter what time of day now, there's traffic here. I have to be able to make sure I give myself much more time, because I get stuck right here every day. I understand that the work has to be done, but it definitely slows everything down."
"If I could stay away from Tonnelle Avenue, I would," said George Andrews, a North Bergen resident who works in Secaucus, but has to cut across the Tonnelle Avenue logjam to get to work. "But there really is no other way. You can't totally avoid it. It really has caused a headache for a lot of people who travel this way."
Only until 2009
The DOT said the road widening project on Tonnelle Avenue is expected to go through 2009, maybe longer.
"We knew it would be hardship," Sacco said. "But we just have to make sure that the roads around the work aren't totally tied up. We expect problems as the work continues. For now, we are telling motorists to try to look for alternative routes. We knew this was coming. It's a massive project, a massive improvement for Tonnelle Avenue. It's causing times of hardship now, but in the end, we'll have a much improved, safer highway."
As for the long-awaited overpass that is slated to be built nearby, Sacco said that he was elated that the funding for the project recently took another positive step towards reality, with Gov. Jon Corzine's transportation plans receiving approval from the state legislation.
"We heard that work for the project [the overpass that would bring traffic eventually over the existing CSX rail lines] won't begin until 2009, but we're now expecting the money to be in place," Sacco said. "It's an area that should have been taken care of by now, but we're happy that things are moving forward."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com