Heavy Downpours Are Clogging Route 36; Highlands Seeks Solutions

first_imgShe said residents in the Monmouth Hills section have shown no interest in initiating a storm-water remediation project with Highlands and Middletown. Gonzales said another related issue is Jones Creek, a body of water that feeds into Raritan Bay and gets filled with three to four feet of silt from Monmouth Hills during those bad rain storms. Each time that happens, the borough has to pay Monmouth County $3,000 to $4,000 to clean out the creek and haul the material away, she said. Route 36, a state highway that is a critical artery for that part of the county, most recently had to be closed July 6, O’Neil said. Rerouted traffic through other parts of Highlands causes congestion, he said. “We have to figure something out,” Gonzales said. “And it’s a matter of public safety now. You have cars that (are) breaking down in this water that they’re going through because you would never think that there would just be this pool of water on the highway.” The problem has been happening for a while but has gotten worse lately, he said. Earlier this year, the state planted grass on a median at the top of Water witch Avenue, which retained the water to the eastbound side of Route 36, O’Neil said. That keeps the whole road from flooding. “And sometimes when the water can’t be taken by the storm drains on 36, it floods out and it covers the road with the mud and the dirt,” he said. “And then when the water finally drains, the sediment is left in the street and it’s too deep to drive through.” Highlands Mayor Rick O’Neil said the problem happens when the borough is hit with deluges of rain lasting 10 to 15 minutes. Along with the water, runoff from the Monmouth Hills section of Middletown leaves three or four inches of “muck,” he said. The flooding problem also impacts the local economy. “NJDOT is aware of the flooding that occurs on Route 36 in Highlands near Water witch Avenue,” said DOT spokesman Stephen Schapiro. “The Department is working with local officials from both Highlands and Middletown, as well as Monmouth County and the Department of Environmental Protection to explore possible solutions.” Monmouth Hills has state historic preservation protection. That means “there are certain things they cannot be told to do by their municipality or local government,” Highlands borough administrator Kim Gonzales said. Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone said he wants to see the DOT do a better job of repairing state roads in Monmouth. Last week the county repaired potholes on Sylvania Avenue, a state road in Neptune City, despite having contacted the state numerous times without action being taken, Arnone said. Local and state officials met last week on the flooding problem. “So this has been an issue ongoing for Highlands for many years,” said Gonzales. “Their storm system is not up to par. If it was a municipality taking care of it, they’d have to do improvements.”center_img HIGHLANDS – Route 36 in Highlands has to be closed when fast-moving rainstorms bring flooding and runoff from a historic district in nearby Middletown, a problem that local and state officials are looking to address. By Philip Sean Curran “We actually have businesses that have to close because they flood out,” she said. ‘The water comes down so heavy and hard.” Gonzales said the borough has to call out the state Department of Transportation to clean out the highway to remove the debris. Three weeks ago, the Middletown Fire Department had to rescue a motorist and child from a stalled car that had gone into deep water in Middle- town. Gonzales said. “You just can’t even imagine until you see it,” she said of the volume of silt that goes into the creek. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to solve the issue,” said Assembly- woman Serena DiMaso (R-13), who represents Highlands. “From what I understand, the state DOT and DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) will be the ones who make the final decision.” Gonzales noted that Middletown has also had weather-related closures of Route 36. Middletown officials say they will attend a meeting with Highlands and state officials Aug. 8. “I was watching cars dangerously, dangerously go over these potholes there,” Arnone said. “It was alarmingly bad.” “But it keeps all the silt and the stone and the de- bris on the eastbound side,” he said. “It gets too deep to drive through at times.” Access Property Management, the property management firm for Monmouth Hills, had no comment July 15. He said he wants the DOT to cooperate better with county officials to review road concerns.last_img read more