Parkway issues dominate ‘Meet the Legislators’ meeting

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GALLOWAY – When the township objected to a plan to end public access to the Garden State Parkway’s Atlantic City service area from Jimmie Leeds Road, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority said it “doesn’t deal with individual municipalities, only the counties.”

The municipality, on Tuesday, Feb. 21 kicked it up a step higher – gaining support from the 9th District Legislative team to take up its cause.

State Sen. Christopher J. Connors and Assembly members Brian E. Rumpf and DiAnne C. Gove held a “Meet the Legislators” session in council chambers at the Galloway Municipal Complex. The three Republicans were hosted by the two Republican mayors of towns that switched to the district this year: Galloway Mayor Don Purdy and Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson.

Galloway resident Jim McElwee, a Democratic candidate for council last November, brought up a list of issues, including the Turnpike Authority's plans and recent changes it’s made to the Garden State Parkway.

The authority’s $25 million plan includes building a New Jersey State Police barracks at the service area, and creating an Exit 41 that would be a full interchange. However, the entrance and exit would be from the right lanes with no way into the service area, which is between the parkway’s north- and south-bound lanes.

The service area-Exit 41 work is part of a project to widen of the parkway from two to three lanes in each direction.

Connors said problems between the Turnpike Authority and southern New Jersey towns are a result of a lack of representation from the southern counties on the agency.

“There is no representation from Atlantic, Ocean or Cape May,” Connors said. “But more than half the parkway is in those counties. The statute needs to be changed to have at least one member from southern New Jersey."

Connors said he is partnering with Democratic Sen. Jeff Van Drew of Cape May County, seeking legislation that would require that representation.

“The statute needs to be changed,” he said. “We need at least one person from South Jersey who can advocate for our interests down here.”

The senator said the authority should also hold some of its meetings in South Jersey.

“Since the parkway was consolidated with the Turnpike Authority, we have no influence at all,” Connors said. “We have to fight tooth and nail for everything.”

He said drivers in Ocean County, also in the 9th District, have no real alternative to the Garden State Parkway for high-speed, north-south travel.

“We want a Park ’N Ride by Exit 52,” Connors said. “I don’t have a good taste in my mouth with the Turnpike Authority.”

Rumpf said Galloway’s issues would be on the agenda.

“I can’t wait to go to work on the rest area access,” he said.

Purdy said to count him in.

“I would like to be part of that meeting,” the mayor said. “We met with them some eight months ago. They’re taking property and they won’t talk to us.”

Connors said there was an opening on the seven-member Turnpike Authority and he planned to ask Gov. Chris Christie to consider the request for a South Jersey representative to fill the vacancy.

Purdy asked if an elected official could serve.

“If so, I’d like to be on that authority,” he said.

Galloway engineer Kevin Dixon said he was following up on some issues the municipality had concerning the Jimmie Leeds Road-Garden State Parkway interchange plans early this month when he was told by senior highway engineer Donald L. Chappa that the authority “deals with counties, not municipalities.”

Purdy said he thought that was a bit “high handed.”

“While Jimmie Leeds Road is a county road, there are Galloway properties affected,” he said. “So they won’t talk to us – just the county? Well maybe they’ll talk to the state.”

Galloway and Port Republic were moved to District 9 last year after many years in District 2. Concerns had been expressed that the southernmost communities in the district might receive scant attention.

“You’re going to see us more than the rest of our constituents because we’re trying to prove ourselves to you,” Rumpf said.

The legislators have already been to council meetings in both towns and have visited Richard Stockton College, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center and Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Galloway.

The district is the third-largest in the state by geographic size.

Rumpf said the legislators accomplished their meeting goal.

“We got a chance to listen to the people,” he said. “That’s what we wanted to do. And they were able to come and hear our answers to their questions and issues.”


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