Changes at James Street and Route 166 are just the latest in an ongoing traffic project on the state highway that will see a new traffic light, dividers and turning lanes for one of Toms River's busiest corridors.
A new traffic pattern made it illegal to turn left from Route 166 southbound onto James Street, the street across from one of the Crossroads Center entrances.
Also, James Street traffic can only turn right to head north onto Route 166. You can't make a left turn onto Route 166 from James Street.
Toms River Township Planner Jay Lynch said the traffic changes are part of the State Department of Transportation project at the stretch of Route 166 between Old Freehold Road through Route 37 until the Highland Parkway.
Late last year, the roadwork began with the reconfiguration of Presidential Boulevard, to align with the end of Old Freehold Road. The James Street changes are the latest changes, but it won't be the last.
There's some buildings to be demolished near Gateway and Route 166, a traffic light to be installed at Highland Parkway and Route 166, and a concrete barrier dividing traffic near James Street through the Route 37 light.
Plans were approved in 2008 by the state DOT, according to documents filed at the Toms River Planners Office.
Continued Changes from Old Freehold Road to Route 37
Work realigning Presidential Boulevard and Old Freehold Road is complete. However, according to the state DOT project map, additional changes are in store for the road between Old Freehold and Route 37.
That stretch will get the a concrete divide, called a "Jersey barrier" that will prevent pedestrians from crossing anywhere but a crosswalk. It would be similar to the one near Route 166 and 571 by the Parkway overpass, but concrete dividers along Route 166 or 9 in Toms River are still uncommon, Lynch said.
The divider would start at Old Freehold Road and continue to the Route 37 intersection.
Left turns from Route 166 north into the Crossroads Center are only allowed at the Presidential Boulevard intersection. A separate turning lane for traffic there is now in place.
While construction at that intersection was ongoing, police directed traffic into the plaza, allowing left turns into the shopping center at an entrance before the traffic light. However, that is now closed off, with traffic cones lining Route 166's center line.
That center line will be the spot of the concrete divider. Traffic can enter and exit the shopping center there only southbound.
Changes from Route 37 to Highland Parkway
Changes to Route 166, also known as Main Street south of Route 37, are approved at the shopping center entrance, at Gateway and at Highland Parkway.
Instead of a one-way entrance into the Town Center Shopping Center, the first entrance via Route 166 will become an exit, too, according to the state DOT plans.
The entrance that is directly in front of the Office Lounge will be closed and a new bus stop shelter will be placed there.
The back entrance to the shopping plaza and Office Lounge, on Highland Parkway near Route 166, will remain.
According to the state DOT map, however, a new traffic light will go up at the intersection of Highland Parkway and Route 166.
In addition, the demolition of the car wash on the Gateway Boulevard side of Route 166 is scheduled.
James Street Traffic Change
Lynch said the most recent changes at James Street mean vehicles will likely use adjacent streets to get to where they once could by the now-illegal left turn.
"I'd imagine a lot of that traffic will be using Walnut Street, or the side streets," Lynch said.
Instead of turning left from James onto Route 166, drivers might consider using the many side streets on James, such as Boyd, to get to Route 37. If they intended to head south on Route 166, they could use the jughandle at Route 166.
Traffic that once turned from Route 166 onto James Street would likely instead turn onto Walnut Street, head toward Hooper Avenue, then turn onto James Street, Lynch said.
There is no road that runs parallel with Route 166 that connects Walnut and James before Hooper Avenue. With several apartment complexes lining both James and Walnut streets, only a parking lot with exits on both streets create a thruway, but that parking lot is not intended to serve local traffic. Signs are posted in the parking lot explaining the traffic rules.
No right turn ramp planned
Route 166 will be better defined with new traffic lines, according to the traffic map.
Southbound approaching Route 37, there will be two southbound lanes: the left lane would be 11 feet wide and other is 15 feet wide. Closer to Route 37, the right lane would be 10 feet wide.
That right lane will continue to be for traffic continuing south, or for traffic turning right onto Route 37 westbound. It will continue to be no turn on red there.
Traffic hoping to turn right onto Route 37 westbound will still continue to the light to make their turn. No right turn exit ramp is planned for the intersection at this time, according to the DOT map.
Northbound Route 166 approaching Old Freehold Road will have a concrete divide separating it from southbound traffic.
Lanes approaching the Old Freehold Road light will be two lanes until after the motor vehicle inspection entrance. Then, a left turn lane for the plaza begins, and a right turn lane onto Old Freehold Road is in place.
Check out this article's photo gallery for images of the state DOT map of the Route 166 corridor.