Tonnelle Avenue woes

Residents complain about traffic, differ on causes

Members of a new group called the North Bergen Concerned Citizens Group have been protesting continued retail development on Tonnelle Avenue, complaining that it will make traffic tie-ups worse in the area – but they’re not alone. A survey of local shoppers by the Reporter found that many of them are frustrated with traffic on Tonnelle as well, although they don’t necessarily blame the development.
Town officials say that a state road project is to blame. The state Department of Transportation’s Tonnelle Avenue road-widening project, which was supposed to be completed in June 2009, is still ongoing. Due to numerous water and gas main breaks, local officials said, the project has slowed to a crawl, causing traffic jams.


“Ten years and the same problem: they don’t fix Tonnelle Avenue.” – Ricardo Rodriguez

Originally, the township believed that funds from their Urban Enterprise Zone – a program that has been cancelled by Gov. Christopher Christie that once allowed towns to use sales tax to finance local projects – could be spent on creating a left-hand turn lane into the mall. With the developer contributing a matching $3 million, the lane would reduce traffic backups caused by vehicles waiting to turn. Now that the UEZ funds are not forthcoming, the lane is taking longer.
The new citizens’ group claims any additional development in the mall, already comprised of big box stores like Walmart and BJ’s Wholesale, will only worsen the negative impact on their quality of life. They say that besides increased traffic, more people have been speeding in the area.
Residents interviewed last week said they hope the traffic troubles can be fixed soon.

Traffic is terrible

“Ten years and the same problem: they don’t fix Tonnelle Avenue,” said Ricardo Rodriguez, a North Bergen resident, as he left a big-box store on Tonnelle last week. “The construction is terrible. There is a lot of traffic every day…it’s a mess.”
Theresa, a resident of Edgewater who had just finished shopping at BJ’s Wholesale, said that when she uses Tonnelle Avenue during the week, lanes are often closed. Now, since construction is on a hiatus during the winter, she said snow has kept the roadway from being totally utilized.
North Bergen resident Suri Espinosa said that often during rush hour, the traffic from Tonnelle Avenue funnels into side streets.
For one Cliffside Park resident who preferred not to be named, leaving his job at Staples in the complex and driving home can be a difficult task.
“Coming out of this parking lot, it takes me sometimes 16 to 20 minutes to get out of here,” he said.
He believes part of the cause might be that the development is not lined up with the side streets in the area.

Blame Bergen County

“I guess it is just expansion, the metropolitan area that’s expanding,” said the Staples employee. “Population is definitely increasing in these small towns up and down the Palisades here, so it’s going to mean more traffic.”
Espinosa said that some of the increased traffic is due to Bergen County residents, whose stores are closed on Sundays, so they come to North Bergen to shop.
“You won’t be able to come parking here on a Sunday,” said Espinosa, who explained that she only shops during non-peak hours.
Theresa said that new developments have brought more traffic into the area, but she didn’t necessarily see these new stores as a negative since “these stores need to be somewhere.”
Vincent Martin of North Bergen said he did not see development along Tonnelle Avenue as the cause of the influx of traffic, but said the cause was the many years of construction along the roadway.
“I’d like to see a left-hand turn lane [into this mall development],” he said. “I don’t understand why that didn’t happen. It’s the same four lanes.”
Tricia Tirella may be reached at

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