Lawmakers Must Act To Rein In NJ’s Incompetent Department of Transportation

A sign warns drivers of blizzard conditions on the north bound Garden State Parkway on January 22, 2016 in Cape May County, New Jersey.

New Jersey roads might get even louder if the state’s DOT gets its way. (Photo: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Only one word can describe the Department of Transportation’s roll out of centerline rumble strips throughout New Jersey: incompetent.

New Jersey lawmakers must stand up to a bureaucratic and dysfunctional New Jersey Department of Transportation by enacting legislation calling for a considered policy on rumble strip placement. If something is not done, NJ DOT will blanket the state of New Jersey with rumble strips with no allowance for noise pollution in residential areas, depriving many people of the quiet enjoyment of their homes.

Although rumble strips are a useful measure that improves road safety, they must be deployed with a thoughtful policy that balances public good with private rights. NJ DOT policy on this subject is virtually non-existent. They are installing centerline rumble strips on every inch of every two-lane road with a speed limit of at least 35 MPH, creating unbearable noise pollution for all citizens anywhere near these roadways.

New Jersey is not the first state to install centerline rumble strips. In fact, it is one of the last. There is a large body of research, studies and advisories from DOTs experienced with this issue, as well as from the Federal Highway Administration, that address the need to balance public safety with the rights of residents who live nearby, and call for the omission of rumble strips near residences. NJ DOT, however, has chosen to disregard all guidance and prior experience and impose an ill-considered policy on the people of New Jersey.

It is inexplicable that NJ DOT staff have not bothered to incorporate any of the findings from these studies into a coherent rumble strip policy. Those responsible for this lapse should be held accountable. A policy that calls for centerline rumble strips on every state road with a speed limit of at least 35 MPH, with no exceptions for residential noise concerns or specific roadway features, is not the result of considered study of all available data. An NJ DOT staffer, when asked why the findings of other DOTs were not incorporated into NJ DOT policy, simply responded with the absurd mantra that New Jersey roads are different because it is the most densely populated state.

Unlike other states that have rolled out centerline rumble strips, NJ DOT has conducted no studies on the impact of noise on surrounding areas. The Department has not investigated the adoption of rumble strip designs that create less external noise. In fact, at a recent meeting with NJ DOT representatives, it seemed that no one was even aware that such alternative designs exist.

I call upon all New Jersey state legislators to protect the rights of those that live near state roads. In a democratic republic, minority rights matter.

Specifically, NJ DOT should be made to adopt a policy including the following provisions:

  • rumble strips should be prohibited within 650 feet of any place where people sleep unless there is a compelling demonstrated safety need that cannot be addressed in another way (studies support this distance);
  • NJ DOT should provide ample notice to all residents and businesses within 1,000 feet of a proposed new rumble strip placement and allow an ample period for public comment;
  • NJ DOT should NOT include rumble strips automatically. Rumble strip placement should be prioritized to locations that require them most, based on lane deviation accidents and roadway parameters;
  • Rumble strips should not be used near environmentally sensitive areas, such as parks, unless warranted by roadway history.

If lawmakers do not act, residents near state roads can expect to experience a decrease in property values and constant noise pollution. And when that happens, lawmakers can expect to hear a lot of noise.

Lawmakers Must Act To Rein In NJ’s Incompetent Department of Transportation