If there were a barricade on Route 206 in Chester Township, Danielle Holmes wouldn’t have suffered a broken leg on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.
Moreover, Diana Bressler would likely still be alive.
Bressler died when her car, traveling north on Rt. 206, crossed over the double yellow line, striking Holmes’ sports utility vehicle. Holmes, of Pottersville, used to drive on that stretch of roadway four, maybe five times each week. Now she avoids it as often as possible.
Holmes saw Bressler heading toward her and was able to veer, slightly, to avoid even greater damage. But it wasn’t enough, clearly.
“Had there been a divider, this obviously wouldn’t have happened,” she told Patch. Not only was the lack of divider an issue, there was no place for Holmes to go otherwise. “My car ended up on its side into the trees. I was able to move slightly and avoid a head-on collision, but I had no options. There isn’t much of a shoulder there and I had nowhere to go.”
Morris County was home to 25 fatalities stemming from 23 crashes in 2013, according to New Jersey State Police statistics. Those statistics include drivers, passengers, bicycle riders, and pedestrians. Two of those happened on the 3.5-mile stretch of Rt. 206 in Chester Township in 12 months. A pregnant Hackettstown woman lost her unborn baby as a result of a crash earlier that year as well, which was not included in the statistics.
But the area that has come to be known for its danger and increasing volume may be changing for the better, as Chester Township officials work with the state to remedy the situation.
Mayor Bill Cogger met with members of the New Jersey Department of Transportation recently and spoke with them about the ever-growing problems in that area.
“They were certainly encouraging to me,” he said of his talks with the state.
Cogger has summoned the Chester Township police department to create a report analyzing crashes and incidents of all kinds on the locally patrolled roadway. Once ready (it is expected within a week’s time), Cogger will couple the report with a proposal to the state to make a change. The mayor said he will ask State Senator Tony Bucco and State Assemblyman Anthony Bucco to endorse the letter as well.
“We’re going to be asking for rumble strips,” Cogger said about the proposal. “With high speeds, narrow lanes… it only takes a second for someone to look down at their phone or radio and the next thing you know we have a huge problem.”
Rumble strips are divots that would be created in the center lane of the roadway that, when driven over, create a loud noise and cause a vehicle to shake violently.
Cogger said he knows barricades would provide better protection over rumble strips, but could be hard to implement at a first request.
“(Barricades) would be a huge deal,” he said. “They take up more road space, so you would need to widen the road, create bigger shoulders, repave and so on. But we’ll see if the (rumble) strips work. If the data and facts show no improvement, we’ll ask for the barricades.”
‘It Never Gets Easier’
Chester Township Police Chief Wayne Martini has been on the force for more than 24 years and has seen his fair share of just about everything, especially on Rt. 206.
“I think rumble strips are definitely a step in the right direction,” he said. “It helps drivers with inattentiveness.”
Martini said, however, it would take nothing short of the barricades to stop an intoxicated driver or motorist with a medical condition. The top cop also said he believes reducing the speed limit would not play a major factor on the roadway.
The two fatalities on the roadway last year – one a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle; the other being Bressler – were not new to Chester Township.
“Looking through wallets and purses to find identification,” Martini said. “that’s our job and that’s what we have to do, but it never gets easier.”
Patch contacted the New Jersey Department of Transportation in November after the fatal crash on the 15th of that month and requested any engineering statistics or data concerning the state-owned, Chester Township patrolled stretch of Rt. 206. After communicating with department spokesperson Stephen Shapiro, Patch received this message:
“(NJDOT) has identified the portion of Route 206 between approximately Rogers Road to Cooper Lane in Chester as a roadway that deserves our attention. We are working with local officials to explore safety enhancements to the roadway.”
The report requested by Cogger is expected to be ready and discussed by the mayor and council at its next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21. The meeting is open to the public at 1 Parker Road with a start time of 7:30 p.m.