Money sought to widen bottleneck Camco span
By MEG HUELSMAN Courier-Post Staff May 1, 2008

Relief for heavy congestion along Berlin-Cross Keys Road in Winslow and Gloucester Township depends on the South Jersey Transportation Authority's ability to fund a $7 million project to widen the bridge over the Atlantic City Expressway.

However, because of a shortage in funding and a long list of waiting road repairs, the authority has approved only the $500,000 design study.

The earliest the widening could be approved is January, said Sam Donelson, director of engineering for the authority, meaning construction would not start until next spring.

A "destination" shopping center called the Shoppes at Cross Keys is expected to open before the 2008 holiday season, adding even more traffic to the already busy highway. About 30,000 cars use the overpass each day -- upward of 6,000 during the morning and evening rush hours, generally, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.

The new plaza, proposed by Ohio developer Stanberry Development LLC, expects to open dozens of stores, including Nine West and Coach, restaurants and several high-end boutiques.

To help subsidize the bridge-widening project, Gloucester Township has enacted a "fair share" plan that requires all new developers along the road to contribute toward the overall cost to repair the bridge, township Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton said.

"It is paramount this bridge be widened to six lanes," she said. "I am frustrated that we don't have a firm commitment from the state for the funding for construction."

The bridge, which is owned by the South Jersey Transportation Authority, must be widened to give drivers in both directions reserved left turn lanes to enter the Atlantic City Expressway. Currently, a bottleneck results when drivers crossing the bridge must merge to the right lane to avoid those turning onto the expressway.

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission has given the overpass a failing grade, officials say.

In 2000, the South Jersey Transportation Authority installed the expressway on-ramps, instantly converting a rural road into a highly desired commercial thruway.

Since then, more than 1 million square feet of commercial development has occurred in Gloucester Township alone, translating into more than $125 million worth of residential and business investment in the township.

"I remember when this was just an open field," said Gloria Popiolek, who lives off Berlin-Cross Keys Road in the Wilton's Corner development.

Seated in a nail salon built atop the former field, Popiolek described the new growth as "convenient."

"Having all of this, the strip malls and the stores, is nice. I just wish they would fix the traffic," she added.

The northwestern half of the bridge is patrolled by Gloucester Township, while Winslow patrols the other half.

Winslow Mayor Sue Anne Metzner did not return messages for comment.

Reach Meg Huelsman at (856) 251-3345 or mhuelsman@courierpostonline.com