The plans for the Crossroads Town Center, a 600,000-squre-foot retail development surrounding the Sheraton Mahwah Hotel, may include alterations to the Mountainside Road overpass over Route 17 and the intersection of Mountainside and Stag Hill roads.
A continued Crossroads traffic hearing Monday night focused on potential changes that may be made to roads outside the development to accommodate for added traffic the shopping center will attract to the intersection of Routes 17 and 287.
Judd Rocciola, a traffic expert reviewing current proposals on behalf of the Planning Board, said the shopping center would change the intersection of West Ramapo Ave and Ramapo Valley Road to a “level of service” rating of ‘F,’ which is the worst rating used in the traffic engineering rating system.
“The ‘F’ rating means it will be congested. Congestion may lead to drivers doing unsafe maneuvers, but not necessarily,” he said.
Crossroads traffic engineer Daniel Disario said the intersection is already “not too far away from an ‘F’ rating.”
Disario explained some of the “traffic pattern improvements” the developer is considering to the township’s planning board and a group of about 50 residents, based on meetings with township professionals reviewing the shopping center’s application.
“This is definitely a collaborative effort,” Disario said of the traffic design. “We want to continue to have input from the town’s professionals.”
Among other more minor changes, the developer is proposing to add a roadway extending Mountainside Ave into the development, which would become the main entrance to the shopping center. The developer is also considering adding a loop off of the overpass to allow for easier access to Route 17 South when leaving the center.
Proposed improvements to the intersection of Mountainside Road and Stag Hill Road could take several different forms, Disario said. The developer may look to add a traffic light to the intersection, additional lanes of traffic, widen the existing lanes, or reconfigure the entire intersection.
Both the new loop and the changes to the Stag Hill intersection, which were not in the developer’s original traffic proposal, were the result of Disario’s meetings with Rocciola.
“We are now collecting survey data to analyze these” potential additions to the traffic plan, Disario said.
The changes to the traffic plan, along with dedicated turning lanes added to both sides of the overpass and to the main entrance to the mall, should, Disario said, help alleviate traffic for residents who live on or off Stag Hill Road.
Concerns about the traffic impact to these residents have been raised by both board members and the public.
“There are 170 households of people who will have to deal with retail traffic on a daily basis,” Mountainside Road resident Rick Marchesi said during the public portion of the meeting Monday.
Any potential changes to the roadways surrounding the development need to be approved by the state Department of Transportation. Disario said the developer has already submitted plans to the DOT that were found to be incomplete.
“There are a few minor items we need to submit before the DOT can begin its review of the plans," Disario said. "And along with those materials we will include supplemental information about [the road improvements].”
Disario said he plans to ask for a meeting with the township’s experts and the DOT to discuss the traffic alteration options.
According to Rocciola, the developer still needs to determine which roadways off of the major highways over which the DOT has jurisdiction.
“Even if it not a state roadway, the DOT may have jurisdiction because of the interactions between some of the town or county roads with the highways,” he said. Traffic pattern changes to roadways in the DOT’s jurisdiction are ultimately the state’s decision, the experts said.
Rocciola also requested the developer do an additional traffic study to determine what the impact of the development would be on Island Road. The developer agreed to conduct the study and report the results back to the board.
Planning Board Chairman Todd Sherer called the traffic impacts to local roadways off of the major highways “just as important” as the impact on Route 17. Sherer said the board will take those into account as meetings with the DOT proceed.
According to Mayor Bill Laforet, who is also a member of the planning board, the board cannot reject the developer’s application based on proposed road improvements outside the shopping center.
“Our responsibility is to provide safe an efficient access to the center,” Tony DiGiovanni, of the Crossroads Developer, said Monday. Disario added that the developer is “extremely sensitive” to concerns of local residents.
“We want to come up with the best traffic improvement plan possible,” he said.
An analysis of the interior traffic changes made inside the proposed development will be scheduled for a future meeting of the Crossroads hearing. The next hearing date, scheduled for April 23, will go over either environmental or civil engineering aspects of the development.