As a worker from C.J. Hesse removed the last of the traffic barrels from the Exit 83 ramp coming off the Garden State Parkway, a pickup truck exited to the left and pulled up to the light at Lomell Lane.
And with his turn left onto Lomell Lane, that driver became the first to use the new connector road to reach Route 571 and avoid the traffic tieups that have long plagued drivers getting off the Parkway who were heading north on Route 166/Route 9.
"This is a dramatic improvement for our commuters," Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said during ceremonies officially opening the new road, construction on which began in October.
In addition to traffic relief that Little and the rest of the Ocean County Board of Freeholders have been stressing for months, Little said naming the road for Leonard G. "Bud" Lomell was a fitting tribute to someone considered a true American hero.
Little, citing passages from "The Greatest Generation," by Tom Brokaw, said Lomell's actions as an Army Ranger at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy were critical to the success of the US invasion at Normandy on D-Day.
"Bud and another sergeant went a mile inland (after scaling a cliff at Pointe du Hoc) to find the cannons that were aimed at Utah Beach and Omaha Beach," Little said. Lomell and the other Ranger found the cannons and Lomell destroyed their sites with incendiary grenades, preventing the cannons from being used.
"It was one of the most important actions to save American forces on D-Day," Little said.
After the war Lomell returned to Point Pleasant, where he was born and raised, and married his wife, Charlotte, on June 6, 1946, the second anniversary of D-Day, then spent the remainder of his life in Ocean County, Little said.
Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari praised Lomell as the kind of person "who did it the way you should," working hard to build his law firm and giving back to the community as his life progressed.
Charlotte Lomell thanked the freeholders and Toms River officials, including Mayor Tom Kelaher, for honoring her husband. It was Toms River officials who requested the name, as the county only uses number designations, Little said.
"I know he would have been absolutely delighted," Charlotte Lomell said.
Vicari expressed pride that the road was finally completed after the traffic issues at the Routes 166 and 571 intersection had been talked since the 1990s, noting that much of the problem is Route 9 is virtually the same as it was in 1929.
"This has been a critical improvement," Kelaher said. "Anything that can improve the quality of live in Toms River is welcomed."
"This is a vast improvement," Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said. "It will alleviate much of the congestion and enhance traffic safety," noting that will be especially important for school buses coming to and from Toms River Intermediate North, which sits just north of Route 571, as well as those buses going to and from the Ocean County Vocational School on the campus of Toms River North.
Here's how Lomell Lane works:
a) Drivers exiting the Parkway at Exit 83 now can choose to follow the old ramp around and merge onto Route 166/Route 9 north. They also can stay to the left and follow a new ramp to a traffic light at 166/9, where they have the option of turning left onto Route 166 south or right onto to Route 9 north.
b) Drivers seeking to get on Route 571 can stay all the way to the left coming off Exit 83 and will come to a light at Lomell Lane. There they can turn left on Lomell Lane, which will take them to Route 571. At the light they have the option of going left on Route 571 toward Manchester, right toward Toms River North and Hooper Avenue, or straight ahead onto Intermediate Way West to access Toms River Intermediate North.
c) Drivers seeking to get on the Parkway northbound at Interchange 83 can now access it by turning onto Lomell Lane from Route 571, avoiding the need to drive down Old Freehold Road and take one of the cross streets that connect Old Freehold Road and 166, or, conversely, avoiding the traffic tieups caused by drivers who head south on 166 to make the left just beyond where the Parkway crosses Route 166 overhead.