The long-proposed Super Walmart, which is planned for the corner of Route 37 and Northampton Boulevard between Toms River and Manchester, would need to pass New Jersey Department of Transportation clearances before it can proceed.
Timothy Greeley, press officer for the NJDOT, said the arrangement “is an ongoing major access permitting issue”, and that to allow development along a state highway such as Route 37, “a developer permit agreement must be reached among the state, the developer and the township” in order to accommodate the expected increased traffic flow.
That permit agreement would require the developer of the Super Walmart, Jaylin Holdings, to make modifications to the current intersection at Route 37 and Northampton Boulevard in order to account for the increase in traffic in that area.
“Currently, NJDOT has issued two initial permits for the developer to advance its plans, but we are still awaiting further paperwork from the developer before the final agreement can be prepared and executed. No construction could begin until that agreement is finalized. Our latest communication with the developer was in late-October,” Greeley said.
According to the NJOT, the major improvements to be constructed by the developer under the agreement include the following:
- The Route 37 East ramp to Northampton Boulevard would be reconstructed and relocated further from the intersection to provide more waiting room for northbound motorists approaching the intersection.
- Northampton Boulevard, at the southern approach to Route 37, would be widened to provide two dedicated left turn lanes onto Route 37 West, with one through lane heading north and one right turn lane onto Route 37 eastbound.
- Northampton Boulevard, at the northern approach to Route 37, would be widened to provide two dedicated left turn lanes onto Route 37 East, one heading south and one right turn lane onto Route 37 West.
- The Northampton Boulevard approaches currently only provide two lanes at the intersection – a left-turn/through lane and a right turn lane. The Route 37 westbound approach to Northampton Boulevard would be widened to provide a new dedicated right turn lane onto Northampton Boulevard northbound. The existing traffic signals would be modified to accommodate the new turn-lanes as well.
Regarding possible impacts to traffic at the intersection, Toms River Planner Jay Lynch confirmed that since Route 37 is a state-controlled highway, the NJDOT would need to approve any construction in that area according to their own specifications.
“There are some improvements they’re looking for, and reports have to be filed,” Lynch said.
Lynch said the proposal plan had worked its way through planning boards both in Toms River and Manchester (due to the site’s location on the border of both towns), but that the NJDOT “has the ultimate call” in whether the construction will come to fruition.
“It would be nice if (the Walmart) is there,” Lynch said. “We’ve supported the development proposal, and we’ll have to wait and see.”
Manchester Township Planning Board Coordinator Marianne Borthwick stated that traffic engineering studies conducted at the intersection of Route 37 and Northampton Boulevard showed that the surrounding roads will be able to accommodate the new traffic flow, should the Super Walmart come to that location.
“With the changes that were implemented to the plan (by the NJDOT), they’ve allotted for traffic movement at the site, and the plan was approved by both planning boards in Manchester and Toms River,” Borthwick said. “The revised plan came in based on what the NJDOT wanted to see. Our planning board felt it was a good plan, and approved it.”
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) have previously expressed concern and opposition regarding the construction of the Super Walmart, due to their belief that the building will threaten the habitat and local population of the Northern Pine Snake.
However, a compromise was reached earlier this year between the NJDEP and Jaylin Holdings, that for every developed acre of the Super Walmart, 10 acres would be set aside to protect the Northern Pine Snake’s habitat. With the store planned to be 21 acres in size, that amounts to more than 200 acres of Pitch Pine trees and small sandy hills that go on for miles alongside Route 37.
Planned conservation efforts include Jaylin’s construction of five den areas called hibernacula, canopy sections needed for snake basking, nesting areas and a fence to block human interaction.
Catherine Galioto and Gregory Kyriakakis contributed to this story.