In a jam: Lakewood exemplifies N.J. towns’ struggle with increased truck traffic on local roads

Steven Reinman relied on his powers of observation during an interview with ROI-NJ. It was easy to do as he was stuck in traffic near the Jersey Shore — with all the sounds of a bumper-to-bumper jam, replete with the coming and going of sirens, all signaling he would be there a while.

Trucks, he argued, need a better way to get in and out of Ocean County’s Lakewood.

A better way than the roads he was looking out at.

“(Lakewood’s) industrial park happens to be the second-largest in the state in terms of area — we have thousands of acres, hundreds of buildings — so, it’s very significant,” he said. “However, it’s surrounded by a mix of uses … and a number of suburban towns.”

Reinman, executive director of the Lakewood Industrial Commission, explained that, as a result of those neighboring towns trying to keep trucks from smothering the Garden State Parkway, access to that major thoroughfare is restricted for fleets moving through Lakewood.

That means, to reach Lakewood’s sizable industrial park, trucks are pressed onto two roadways: U.S. Route 9 and State Route 70.

“And that really sends a lot of our truck activity into local roads,” Reinman said. “That’s challenging, because there’s enough congestion on local roads without 18-wheelers trying to make difficult turns and so on.”

It’s an example of a transportation dilemma New Jersey towns are facing, an often long-running one, but made more apparent as those local economies have been buoyed by an ever-expanding e-commerce and logistics sector.

Reinman said trucking companies have been pushing for a change to road-access rules for years. Mainly, they want more options to easily meet up with the New Jersey Turnpike that stands to the north of the Raritan River.

He said they feel the need to advocate because the fact that there’s a gap around the Lakewood area where trucks have to follow strict Garden State Parkway access rules sends trucks on difficult routes on surface roads.

Those roads are inundated with other traffic, as he could himself observe, as well as traffic lights, he said.

Reinman, who claimed he’s so far seeing very little opposition to trucks at least being able to access the Parkway directly during night hours, expects any opening up of local roads for commercial and industrial vehicles would be a boon to companies already there — and those planning on locating there.

“It would be a game-changer and something eminently reasonable,” he said. “And the feedback overall has been good. We have gotten in front of state legislators who are supportive, but we haven’t gotten to the point where we get the hearing in front of the highway authorities to get approval on it. That’s what we’re working toward.”