The decision made at the Passaic County Court last week regarding the proposal for a third exit from the campus was not the one Montclair State University was hoping for.
Last August, the university requested the court to issue a judgment allowing them to proceed with the proposed improvements to Yogi Berra Drive at the intersection of Valley Road without requiring permits from the county or local municipality. Judge Thomas Brogan denied this request on Thursday, Feb. 25.
“We are disappointed with the judge’s decision,” said Erika Bleiberg, Interim Director of Media Relations at Montclair State. “We sincerely believe that the proposed egress improvements are critically needed by the university and will deliver a safe traffic movement to and from our campus and the surrounding roadways.”
The university is now reviewing and considering all of the options available to help solve this issue, according to Bleiberg. In the meantime, they are waiting for the court to enter an order memorializing the judge’s decision.
“Around three o’clock, it starts getting crazy. I have been late to work and class because of traffic and exit problems, so [the third exit] would be a good idea,” said Daniel Polo, a freshman physics major, who supports the university’s proposal.
“[Traffic] is really bad when leaving campus and it can take 15 minutes just to get off campus,” said Hamza Jazmati, a senior computer science major. “The main problem is exiting, since there are only two. If they had a third one, it would be awesome.”
Some of the conflict between the parties involved in this case is due to input from the traffic experts each respective side has hired. According to Bleiberg, traffic experts working with the university said the design Montclair State proposed is safe because it uses a 25 miles per hour design speed in order to ensure vehicles travel at a slower speed on Yogi Berra Drive as they approach Valley Road. On the other hand, the traffic expert hired by the City of Clifton reported that Yogi Berra Drive should be designed at 35 miles per hour.
“The design speed used by the university is the same as the design speed used and approved by the county for internal roadways at Willowbrook Mall, William Paterson University’s West Overlook Road and the Preakness Healthcare Center,” said Bleiberg.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is currently constructing a ramp at Clove Road to direct traffic west on Route 46, which led to the City of Clifton suggesting that the university wait to see if the ramp improves vehicle circulation on campus.
According to Bleiberg, university traffic experts said this project will not solve the campus’s traffic problem based on traffic counts updated in 2014. In addition, the vehicles using this new ramp will be the same ones which travel on Valley Road from Normal Avenue, then accessing Route 46.
“I don’t think [the NJDOT project] will help much because most of the traffic is not in that area,” said Jazmati. He does not think the university should wait to see how it effects campus traffic patterns but should instead continue to pursue approval for their proposal.
“They’re enrolling more and more students and the traffic is really bad at certain times,” said Jazmati. “[The university] should do what is necessary to alleviate problems — everything they can.”