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Small Borough Looks to Montgomery Township and Somerset County for Solutions to Heavy Traffic on Route 518

By Rikki N. Massand | Posted January 2, 2024


Rocky Hill residents expressed concern at a town hall forum at Borough Hall on December 2 about an abundance of traffic that is coursing through their historic town.


Multiple large-scale tract housing developments, apartment complexes, and new and expanding strip malls in neighboring Montgomery Township, especially at the Route 206/518 intersection on the border of Rocky Hill, are of utmost concern. Also, large dump trucks from the nearby Trap Rock Industries quarry are a problem.


Traffic in Rocky Hill, NJ.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic on Route 518 in Rocky Hill in December. Photo by Barbara A. Preston.


Dozens of residents packed into Borough Hall, leaving no chairs empty, and dozens more joined the meeting via Zoom from their homes.


The Rocky Hill Council Traffic Committee, consisting of Richard Novak and Susan Bristol, introduced the topic.


“We’ve been concerned about this issue in Rocky Hill for a long time,” Councilman Novak said. “We’re surrounded by and impacted by the activities in other communities, most notably in Montgomery. Traffic through Rocky Hill is really a regional problem. If there’s development happening nearby we are not even consulted and it results in more traffic through Rocky Hill."


Adeline Wilson, a 12-year-old who lives in Rocky Hill, told Borough Council that Washington Street is too treacherous for her to safely cross.


Adeline Wilson

Adeline Wilson


Adeline said she and other children in the neighborhood like to ride their bikes to the D & R Canal State Park.

“It’s gotten so bad that our parents tell us to ride down the sidewalk, but the sidewalk should be reserved for pedestrians and we should be able to ride bikes on Washington Street,” she said. 

Drivers Ignore the Flashing Lights at the Crosswalk

“Even at the crosswalk, we might have to wait five minutes for a car to stop and let us pass. We’ve almost been hit several times while waiting at the crosswalk,” Adeline said.


Her father, Wesley Wilson, noted his growing concerns. From what he’s observed, speed bumps are not the total solution to calm traffic.


“I won’t regale you with the list of choice words and gestures my children have been subject to for just being pedestrians and cyclists in Rocky Hill – it’s absolutely ridiculous.


“I would add to the list the importance of Design Principles, as Council Member Bristol explained in Complete Streets,” Wilson said.


Complete Streets is an approach to planning, designing, building, operating, and maintaining streets that enables safe access for all people who need to use them, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. 


“You have to design to slow traffic down as well as enforce speed and include the signage. Combining these things can give us the results we want,” Wilson said.  His closing comment was for Rocky Hill to join a regional working group for pedestrian and bicycle safety.


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Rocky Hill Borough Councilman Novak said that borough officials have begun this process.


“We’ve engaged Somerset County [officials], and more recently with County Engineer Matt Loper’s office. We have presented ideas to them, and we have had a good reception. They’ve pledged to collaborate with us not only for [County Route 518] but also on behalf of Rocky Hill for the state,” he said.


Novak noted that Route 206 is a state road, however Somerset County does engage with NJ DOT on its needs and conditions.  


Keep Somerset County Moving

Councilwoman Bristol mentioned that the Somerset County Office of Planning, Policy & Economic Development’s is now creating the “Keep Somerset Moving: Transportation Plan 2045 study.”

The draft plan includes recommended transportation projects, and is available online at www.co.somerset.nj.us/government/public-works/planning-policy-and-economic-development/2022-transportation-update-3109.


Bristol encouraged Rocky Hill residents to visit the site, and to participate in the process.


“Our Rocky Hill village-scale main street [Route 518] is a county road and Crescent Avenue is technically a county road, but neither has the capacity to handle the volume or type of use it is seeing now.

“We need an alternate to Route 518,” she said. “We also want to be included in any conversations the state has with Montgomery Township about the Route 206-518 intersection. These clearly impact Rocky Hill.” 


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Bristol added the Route 518 bridges over Millstone River and D & R Canal are “inadequate, unsuitable, and unsafe” for tractor trailers, dump trucks, and heavy traffic.


Marj Yuschak of Washington Street, who is a member of the Rocky Hill First Aid & Rescue Squad, said the multitude of heavy trucks rumbling along Route 518 early in the mornings is disturbing. She especially cited how some use the “Jake Brake” – a compression/decompression release brake – that produces loud screeching noises and thunderous vibrations that rattle the historic homes in Rocky Hill.


 It was suggested that Borough Council approve a resolution to outlaw the use of Jake Brakes, put up signs, and then contact Trap Rock Industries quarry about this safety and quality of life issue.


Yuschak explained, “Those brakes will make me deaf, the black dirt from trucks also collects inside and outside of my home. We need to evaluate signs in Rocky Hill and include one for Reduced Speed Ahead - 30 MPH.”

Council Member Jon Lee, the liaison for Public Safety, said traffic enforcement is part of the issue. The borough currently engages the Franklin Township police department to provide part-time enforcement of Rocky Hill’s roads. He says the borough has also examined what it would cost to have a shared service for police involving at least one dedicated Rocky Hill-based police officer. 


To date, Borough Council has not wanted to pay the high cost of a shared service, and he is not sure the town can afford it.


“There is a town in Bergen County that’s about the same size as Rocky Hill that’s done this and it costs them $400,000 per year. We could not possibly do that because that violates the 2 percent cap rule for the borough’s annual budget,” Councilman Lee said. 


Peggy Querec, who lives at the intersection of Crescent Avenue and Washington Street (Route 518), said drivers coming to that intersection “view it as a speedway.” 


After commenting on a large pothole at her corner causing many awful sounds from trucks on the road, she said the high speeds make it dangerous for her to get into her vehicle.

“That street is so tight. We have discussed making it a one-way, which would be a good idea,” she noted.


Hank Bristol, who lives off Route 518, forewarns that in the next five years Rocky Hill will probably see a 50 percent increase in traffic coming through the community and impacting the historic district along Washington Street.


“When you look at the barbell effect of Montgomery with developments to the south and west, it’s going to overwhelm us,” he said. ■

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