Residents Say Petty Road Is No Trivial Matter
During Monday's Cranbury Township Committee Meeting, several residents raised concerns over the quality of Petty Road
The Cranbury Township Committee heard from a number of concerned Petty Road residents during the committee meeting Monday, as a major item on the agenda concerned a New Jersey Department of Transportation Local Aid grant application that would possibly supplement road repairs in the township.
During a work session, the committee discussed and voted on a resolution that would order by preference three possible transportation improvement projects for the NJDOT to consider funding.
According to Township Engineer Bill Tanner, it is likely Cranbury would get at most two grants, which would have to be submitted in different categories.
The committee voted to submit the second phase of the downtown beautification project as the first grant priority for $300,000, which would fall under a quality of life category. Under a road repairs category, the committee voted to submit first Cranbury-Brickyard Road for a grant of more than $500,000, with Petty Road in last place.
During a September township committee meeting, however, residents addressed several concerns about Petty Road to the committee, and Tanner was asked to survey the road and report his findings during Monday’s meeting.
According to Tanner, the road is between 16- and 17-feet wide, which, while possibly uncomfortable for some drivers, would be enough for two cars to pass.
One issue, however, is that because the road is deteriorating and essentially breaking off at the sides, cars tend to drive in the middle of the road, which many consider the makings for a head-on collision.
Tanner confirmed that the road quality is poor, citing that the road bed underneath the pavement is wet clay. He said if anyone were to mill off the top pavement, there would be no road left.
He said building on clay soil is fine when it’s kept dry, but because of drainage issues, water gets underneath the pavement and into the clay soil, which is a major issue.
“You’re building on Jell-O basically,” Tanner said.
He said clay experiences capillary action, meaning it draws up water. When it gets cold, the water freezes under the pavement and expands, raising the pavement, and when the ice melts, the road collapses again.
As far as Tanner could tell, the road’s drainage consists only of dry wells. He said the wells were full of water when he went to survey the road, days after any rainfall, which is consistent with Petty Road resident Connie Bauder’s complaint that the road drainage is ineffective.
“Our problem is the road and how to get the water off the road,” Tanner said.
The road was repaved in 1995 by taking it down to bare soil, Tanner said, and building it back up.
Blase Toto moved to Petty Road in 1994, a year before the road was repaved. He said the road was better before it was repaved in 1995. Many residents nodded their heads in agreement at this statement during Monday’s meeting.
Toto said the dry wells sunk almost immediately after repairs were made. Tanner said in all likelihood, this was due to a poor paving job.
He said generally with a good paving job, the road should last between 16 and 25 years.
Now, in order to repair the road, the township would have to remove the existing road, replace the draining system, then place a stone course on top, and above that repave about 7 inches.
Tanner predicts this work alone would cost just over $1 million. In addition to this, the township would also have to consider permit and engineering costs, as well as acquiring drainage easement rights.
“The drainage is so critical to this road, you’d have to do the drainage first,” Tanner said.
He recommends the township initially do a drainage study to assess how big the problem is. At this time, Tanner said he could not recommend applying for a grant from NJDOT for this project.
“I can’t see this going to the grant at this time,” Tanner said. “We just don’t have enough information on it.”
Committeeman Jay Taylor asked how long the township has until the road becomes a real issue. Tanner responded that it was difficult to say at this point, and that it would be better to wait until after the winter to reassess the road’s conditions.
Tanner estimates, however, the road could last up to another 5 years, since he also believes Petty Road has been in bad shape since it was repaved.
“It’s been lousy from the beginning,” Bauder said.
Cranbury Township Mayor David Cook said he acknowledges Petty Road is an issue, but it is not one to be remedied immediately, but rather after discussion in the spring when the township can assess further damage.
“I don’t want to rush out and do something for the sake of doing it,” Taylor said. “Also I wouldn’t want to go in and apply for something knowing that we don’t have a chance to do it and then forgo getting anything for the town.”
Township Administrator Denise Marabello said she has noted the project should be phased into the capital budget.
Township Committeewoman Susan Goetz suggested the committee open up the discussion to the public before the committee voted. However, the committee passed the resolution authorizing the submission of the grant application before allowing the public to comment.
“It was very disappointing that the committee did not take public comment before making their decision,” said candidate for township committee Tom Connolly in a statement. “We need better leadership that understands that members of the township committee are representatives of the residents of Cranbury and there is nothing more important than their input and ideas.”
Many Petty Road residents expressed concerns about the safety of Petty Road. Jim Romaine, for example, has four children who get picked up by a school bus in front of his home. He said come wintertime, the water that remains in the drainage in front of his driveway freezes, and he is concerned that his children will slip.
Many residents also agreed there is not enough room for two cars and pedestrians to pass on the 16-foot wide road. Toto said many cyclists use the road as part of their route.
Toto suggested that since the drainage isn’t doing anything, the township might as well take the dry wells out and repave the road as a quick fix. Tanner agreed the drains make little difference on the road as is.
“The road is an embarrassment for people who live on that road,” said Peter Connolly.