For nearly two decades, officials representing the city have been fighting for an access road off the New Jersey Turnpike here.
The need for the road was renewed last month as drivers were stuck on the highway for hours after a dump truck overturned and became engulfed in flames under the South Wood Avenue bridge, killing one person in the truck.
State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District, does want to see any more time go by before plans for the access road get back on track.
Last week, Scutari, chairman of the senate Judiciary Committee, met with state Department of Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox, city and Union County officials to discuss the access road project. Fox, a Hunterdon County resident, also serves as chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
"The commissioner did commit to a feasibility study in October," said Scutari who had invited city and county officials to the meeting at Linden City Hall to present the strongest case possible for the economic and safety benefits the access road would provide. "I think it's a first step."
"This interchange is a critical project both to Linden and Union County. The Turnpike Authority, at the direction of NJDOT Commissioner Jamie Fox, is engaging in a feasibility study. The scope of work is currently being developed and we expect the study to begin in October," Kevin Israel, state DOT public information officer, said in an email statement.
Since about 1998 Linden has been trying to get a Turnpike access road, also known as the Linden Industrial Exit, in the area of Lower Road to the Tremley Point section of the city to reduce truck traffic along the residential section of South Wood Avenue, as well as open about 400 acres for brownfield development.
Scutari said all the permits for the project are in place, including a U.S. Coast Guard permit. He said extensions on the permits, some of which are set to expire soon, are being sought. He said funding for the $150 million project, however, was diverted to a South Jersey project.
"We have such traffic. It's the right thing to do," said Scutari, noting that truck traffic is especially heavy on Routes 1 and 9, the main route leading to the industrial properties in Tremley Point.
The fire from the Aug. 4 crash fried nearby high-tension wires and cut power to the businesses across the South Wood Avenue bridge in the industrial area, stranding workers after the bridge was closed to traffic.
As drivers south alternate routes, traffic delays were created on roadways throughout the area, including Routes 1 and 9 and the Garden State Parkway.
If the access road had been in existence, Scutari said, it would have provided a way to get the cars off the highway, rather than leaving them on the roadway for hours.
He said the road also would be an enormous help to businesses because of the free flow access to the brownfield area. Scutari said people will want to build if there is direct access to the Turnpike.
Scutari said time is of the essence to get the project off the ground.
"We really need some action. This is a big job and a lot of money. We have to continue to make the point it's needed," Scutari said. "I'll keep pushing."