PREIT wants to add a left-turn lane from Route 38 West into the Moorestown Mall, but the township’s traffic safety officer thinks it’s a bad idea.
Traffic engineer David Shropshire pitched the plan to township council Monday, seeking their blessing before taking it to the state Department of Transportation (NJDOT). He explained the addition of a left turn along 38 westbound between Nixon Drive and Sears would ease the flow of traffic in and around the mall.
Currently, mall patrons heading west on 38 have primarily one of two options for getting there: turn left onto East Gate Drive, then make the right on Harper Drive, and cross over Nixon Drive; or take the jughandle onto South Lenola Road, and turn left onto 38 East
Shropshire said it’s estimated roughly half of the traffic turning onto East Gate Drive is mall traffic. By adding another left turn farther up the road, it would split the traffic and make traveling less congested on East Gate/Harper and Harper/Nixon, he explained.
While that might be true, Sgt. Randy Pugh said, that doesn’t outweigh the cons of the plan. Pugh, Moorestown’s traffic safety officer, was blunt in his assessment.
“It’s a bad idea,” he said. “We have more accidents between that short stretch of roadway (on Route 38) than all of our intersections in Moorestown. If we have another intersection, we’re going to have another hundred accidents a year.”
Aside from his opinion that the addition of another intersection would look “pretty crappy” and cause the accident rate to “skyrocket,” Pugh also suggested creating a new traffic signal in the middle of 38 would back up traffic in both directions, toward South Lenola and Nixon.
“I think about this stuff when I lay in bed at night, and more and more things pop into my mind why I think it’s a bad idea,” said Pugh, who has more than 40 years with the police department. “I’m representing the township and looking out for the township’s interest. How does Moorestown benefit from this? How do people coming to the mall benefit from this? As a layperson, I just don’t see it.”
Shropshire pointed out that the idea of a left-turn lane was included in the township’s master plan for the mall area roughly 30 years ago, but was never done because the mall didn’t have the resources. But according to Pugh, 30 years, when talking about the mall and corresponding traffic, is “ancient history.”
Resident Ted Olson, who lives on Nixon Drive near the mall, said traffic is a headache now, and could become even more of a nightmare once the mall starts adding restaurants and the movie theater opens, but a left turn off the highway is not the answer.
"There has to be a change maybe with access to the mall," said Olson. "But not a left-hand turn lane."
PREIT was seeking council’s blessing to bolster its case before it goes to NJDOT “because we don’t think we’re going to go too far without township support,” said Shropshire.
However, Councilman Greg Newcomer pointed out, since the issues relates to the master plan, it should go before the planning board for a “yea” or “nay” first.
Township manager Scott Carew said he’d advise community development director Tom Ford to put the matter on the board’s agenda for its March 7 meeting.