Senator, Congressman, Assembly Members, Freeholders,
It has been a year and six months since I contacted each of you to advise you of the degraded and unsafe conditions of Foothill Road in Readington Township, New Jersey. It has been over six years since the residents of Foothill Road initially raised our concerns to the Readington Township committee that this unpaved (dirt) road is unsafe and we still do not have a resolution to these issues. During the past 6 years the residents have consistently attended Readington Township meetings, wrote emails and made phone calls in an effort to raise awareness of these concerns and to reach a compromise with the Readington Township committee and Engineer regarding these complaints.
Over the past 20 years, the traffic on Foothill Road has increased significantly from a local road to a connector of a county road (Route 629) and a state road (Route 31). This has also been compounded by the additional traffic to the Or Chadash temple which was completed and opened on Foothill Road in 2000. The residents feel that the township was negligent in performing a proper road study when the temple was built which would have determined that the increased road traffic would degrade the unpaved road surface creating unsafe driving conditions. The Township should have been required to bring Foothill Road up to code at the time the Or Chadash temple was approved. In addition, a concrete divider was added on State Route 31 approximately 8 years ago which makes it difficult for Foothill Road residents, Or Chadash congregants and commuters to enter Foothill Road from the north entry way. This has re-directed traffic to enter from the east end of Foothill Road and travel along the entire length of the road. The township has also acknowledged that an increase in number of paved driveways on the elevated side of Foothill Road has increased the amount of rain water and run off onto Foothill Road which has led to the deteriorated road surface.
• The Readington Township Committee has taken the position that Foothill Road is not compliant with RSIS standards and the road is too narrow to pave as a 2 way road. RSIS standard RECOMMENDSthe road should be 20 feet in order to be paved as a 2 way. Foothill Road is 18 feet or greater in 85% of the 1 mile stretch. The town had previously stated that it would cost 2.4 million dollars to pave Foothill road and bring it up to code. This cost estimate was provided by the township Engineer and was not based on a bona fide quote by one or more contractors. The township later gave an estimate of $185,000 to just paveFoothill Road at its current width. It is unclear how widening the road a few feet can cost an additional 2.x million dollars. The Township is on record stating that if the residents want to move forward with making Foothill Road RSIS compliant the entire cost would need to be paid by the 28 residents. It appears that this inflated price was stated to dissuade the residents from pursuing this option.
• Please note that a significant number of roads in Readington township do not meet this RSIS requirement and are resurfaced every few years. Within the past 10 years Cole Road in Readington Township was converted from a dirt road into a paved road. This road measures approximately 15-18 feet in width and has a retail business at the one end of the road.
• The Township Committee stated they will be liable if Foothill Road is paved as a two-way road at its current width and an accident occurs and yet they approve paving other non RSIS compliant roads. The town is also fine with leaving Foothill Road in its current condition. However, I expect that if an accident occurs on Foothill Road in its present unpaved condition, after 6 years of formal notice and discussion, the Township will not only be liable but negligent.
• Three years ago the residents and the Township committee unanimously dismissed the idea of converting Foothill to a paved one-way road when it was proposed during a township meeting. However, it was abruptly reintroduced as an ultimatum at a township meeting earlier this year. The township stated that we the residents would either have to accept a paved one way road or retain the unpaved road and never have the opportunity to bring this up for reconsideration. This was very troubling to hear after 6 years of discussion and compromise on behalf of our residents. Anyone familiar with Foothill Road would understand that making it a one way is far from practical. To put this into perspective, what would currently take less than a minute to drive to the school bus stop will now take 8-10 minutes if the road is paved as a one way.
• It has also been made clear that funding for the local roads in past years has been reallocated by the Readington Township Committee to legal fees incurred by the town. This is appalling given all the documented evidence regarding the safety concerns on Foothill Road and the combined total of nearly $5 million dollars that the 28 homeowners have paid in taxes over the past 10 years.
Readington Township residents, not limited to those of us residing on Foothill Road, do not feel that the Township of Readington is acting in the best interest and safety of its residents. It is inexcusable and reprehensible to think that the Township of Readington would continue to disregard the concerns for safety and put the blame on the residents for initially moving to a home on an unpaved road. Further to that, the residents of Foothill Road feel they have been discriminated against by the Town. The residents of Foothill Road have a right to live on, travel and commute on a safe road just like all the other residents in town. It is deplorable that the Township Committee would even propose to make the residents of Foothill road pay for the entire repair when the cost to make these safety improvements are less than $ 200,000 and they have spent millions on unsuccessful legal challenges.
It would seem moral and ethical for the county and the state to assist in this effort. It would seem right for the county and the state to have their engineers meet with our local engineer to discuss further possible solutions and offer up additional suggestions that may have been overlooked. We are talking about a less than 1 mile stretch of road that serves township and county residents each day. I expect that with the proper level of support, a safe and economical solution could have been reached in less than a six year period.
To add insult to injury the cross road that Foothill Road leads up to, (Stanton Road/Route 629) is in the process of being repaved by the county. This is a road that many would agree is in fairly good condition but apparently there is county funding to resurface this entire stretch of road. On top of that the .23 cents per gallon gas tax went into effect on November 1 aimed at replenishing New Jersey’s expired transportation trust fund which is used to repair our roads and bridges. How is it that we live in a state with the highest property taxes and now the 6th highest for gas prices and we have a main road that was designed for horse and buggy 200 years ago?
In the past 6 years, the residents have made several compromises to paving our road while regrettably the Township has not, offering only a final ultimatum. Our original request was to widen and pave (asphalt surface) the road however, we were advised that the cost ($ 2.6M) was prohibitive. We understood the financial burden this would place on the Township and the diminished likelihood of approval. We instead agreed with the lower cost chip and seal option which was proposed by the Township Committee at that time. This option seemed more attractive as it addressed most of the issues and chip and seal was not funded by the capital budget, rather it would be funded by the annual chip and seal budget which, as it was explained to us, would then be considered road maintenance eliminating the need for engineer signoff which would alleviate the need to widen the road and reduce additional cost. For the past 3 years we have in good faith been waiting for Foothill Road to be prioritized by the Committee for chip and seal however, earlier this year this verbally agreed upon approach was dismissed and replaced by the one-way only ultimatum. The Township a few months ago followed up by sending all Foothill residents a survey requesting whether the road should be paved as a one-way or remain unpaved, the results of which have not been disclosed.
We are once again asking for your support to request Readington Township to form a committee to further evaluate options for paving municipal owned Foothill Road as a two-way lane. This committee should be comprised of Committee members of the Township, the Engineer, Foothill Road residents and transportation officials and experts not affiliated with the Township that can provide unbiased and objective recommendations. It would also seem appropriate to obtain several legitimate bids and to discuss alternate ways of funding such a project as this is not just a local issue, it affects county and state traffic as well.
Thank you for you continued support in this effort.
The Residents of Foothill Road