Stop & Shop Expert Tells Millburn Zoning Board That Supermarket Plan Will Permit ‘Safe and Efficient’ Flow of Traffic Around Site
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 • 6:30am
MILLBURN, NJ—Dan DiSario of Elmwood Park, traffic engineer for ARC of Springfield, testified on Monday in the continuing Millburn Board of Adjustment hearing on the company’s application to open a supermarket on the site of the former Saks Department Store.
Although the majority of the site lies in Springfield, a 20-foot deep strip of land on the site belongs to Millburn.
Springfield, Essex County and the New Jersey Department of Transportation already have approved the application, although Springfield did so with a number of conditions.
DiSario framed a large part of his testimony at Monday’s hearing with the fact that the other governmental bodies already had given the okay to the project.
He said, in testifying in thousands of similar hearings, he had rarely encountered an application where the majority of approvals already had been given. In fact, according to the traffic expert, one of the only reasons his client was obligated to appear in Millburn was that the township had failed to deed the strip of land located in the township over to Essex County a number of years ago.
Because of the previous approvals, the ARC expert said, he limited his study to driveways proposed on the easterly and westerly sides of the property along Millburn Avenue and a proposed traffic signal on Baltusrol Way which will control customer traffic entering and exiting the site.
One of the conditions of Millburn approval for the application—a requirement for 100 parking spaces—in fact, proved a little puzzling to DiSario from a traffic perspective.
He said for traffic plan approval of an application there was “no rational nexus between the number of parking spaces and the access points to a site.”
The ARC expert also said it was not practical to rout truck traffic leaving the site onto Morris Avenue, as has been suggested in past hearings, because DOT regulations prohibit making the left turn onto Morris, which is a state highway, and the proposed use could not meet state vehicle thresholds for such a turn.
Because of these prohibitions, he added, access through Springfield was precluded and Millburn Avenue was the only allowable access point.
DiSario also said there was no connection between the conditional zoning for the site that says the proposed traffic volume cannot increase more than 10 per cent over that of the previous occupant of the site during peak hours.
The DOT, he noted, does not allow more than a 10 per cent increase in traffic volume directly onto a facility located on a state highway, but this standard does not apply to the Millburn Avenue site.
The expert added the Millburn board could allow the deviation from its conditional zoning code standard proposed by ARC “with no substantial detriment to the public.”
On another concern, the crossing of the yellow center line on Millburn Avenue by trucks exiting the site, DiSario said it was highly unlikely this would happen due to the length of trucks making deliveries to the site and precautions being taken to assure an adequate turning radius for the vehicles.
He also said this standard should apply to all sites in the area, not just to the former Saks site, and it should have nothing to do with the amount of parking spaces required on the site.
In addition, he said, trucks only would be allowed to make right turns into the site, not onto Millburn Avenue, and would be required to make a left turn when exiting the site.
With the building plans now including a traffic signal on Baltusrol Way when the supermarket is erected rather than in the future, according to the expert, the level of service at that intersection will operate at a “C” level of service according to the Institute of Traffic Engineers standards during peak hours on weekday and Saturday evenings.
That area, he noted, would be served by the westerly driveway and would be restricted to passenger car traffic.
The easterly driveway, restricted to truck traffic and controlled by a stop sign, would have a lesser “E” level of service during peak hours, he said.
DiSario said the institute standards deem the “E” level of service acceptable for the type of development proposed by ARC on the site.
Although he admitted there could be a backup that could block driveways on Baltusrol Way when the new signal was red, the traffic expert said it was unlikely to happen when the signal was green.
Responding to board member Roger Manshel, he said if a truck encountered a backup when exiting the site it could wait until the backup had cleared before exiting onto Millburn Avenue.
Board members Thomas Singer and Mary McNett said they would like to see reports on the current levels of service for the Short Hills Avenue and Morris Avenue intersections and would service levels were projected after the supermarket is built.
Although DiSario had limited his study to the two access points because Springfield, the county and the DOT had studied the areas as part of their approval processes, he said he would try to get the board data from the other studies.
Shop-Rite attorney Stephan Barkin questioned DiSario extensively on different conclusions reached by him, zoning board traffic expert, Hal Simoff, and Township Engineer Thomas Watkinson.
He also questioned why those studies involved the Short Hills and Morris Avenue intersections and DiSario’s study did not.
In response to another Barkin question, although admitting that trucks could hypothetically turn from the proposed supermarket site onto Morris Avenue, he could not give an expert opinion on the feasibility of relocating proposed loading docks and sound barriers on the site to make this possible.
ARC attorney Gail Price also objected to Barkin’s line of questioning on this issue.
Although the traffic engineer said that WB67 tractor trailer trucks that would be servicing the site met state standards, he couldn’t confirm for sure that they would not cross the yellow center lines on Millburn Avenue when exiting the site due to their length.
The traffic expert did say only smaller SU30 vendor trucks, which he said would not cause a problem by crossing the lines, were the only vendor trucks anticipated to use the site.
He said he was unaware of “design vehicles” of SU40 and SU50 length suggested by Barkin.
DiSario also said his clients were bound by the Springfield Board of Adjustment approval of their application to limit tractor trailers making deliveries to six to eight per day and vendor trucks to 16 to 23 per day from Monday through Saturday only and from 7am to 10pm.
He again cited the Springfield agreement when Steven Lipman of Tower Drive, Springfield said he had heard up to 45 trucks per day would enter the site.
Responding to a question from Barney LaGreca of 171 Myrtle Avenue, Millburn, DiSario said ARC needed two driveways on the site because the loading dock would be on the eastern side of the site and it cut off this area from the rest of the site, thus creating the need for the western driveway.
LaGreca disputed figures cited by the traffic expert that said the store would only increase traffic by 11 vehicles on weekdays on Baltusrol Way and 15 vehicles on weekends.
He also said the Millburn Master Plan did not allow for any increase in traffic on local streets due to new development.