The Monroe Township Council approved a weight-limit ban on certain roads targeting truck deliveries into Cranbury, but the new law is far from being enforceable and could even result in a costly legal battle for both Middlesex County municipalities.
The governing body’s action at the October meeting doesn’t mean that immediately residents will not see tractor-trailers heading into Cranbury via Cranbury Station, Prospect Plains or Cranbury Half Acres roads.
The measure requires Middlesex County to approve the change and then the state is the ultimate decider. The process will take months, Monroe officials said. Though there is no guarantee that the higher governmental authorities will side with Monroe.
“We are now scheduling meetings with Middlesex County officials to discuss the next steps and ensure county engineers have the most accurate and pertinent information,” Monroe Township Administrator Alan Weinberg wrote in an email on recently.
Those meetings have already started, according to a township news alert. On Oct. 25, Mayor Gerald Tamburro met with Freeholder Director Ronald Rios and head of Middlesex County Infrastructure Khalid Anjum to discuss the tractor-trailers using Monroe to access the Cranbury-based warehouses.
“I am working hard to fast track this ordinance and get these Cranbury tractor-trailers off our residential streets, once and for all,” Tamburro said in the township news release.
The timeline, however, may take much longer than what the mayor and administration want.
Part of that process, according to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, requires Middlesex County to conduct an official traffic study on the roads involved and submit that information to the DOT.
The DOT said part of approving such changes requires showing that the new traffic controls “are in the interest of safety and the expeditious movement of traffic.”
Middlesex County did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Once the DOT has the required county and Monroe information, the department’s Bureau of Traffic Engineering will conduct its investigation.
“Our investigations will include but not be limited to, an evaluation of the submitted data, a field survey confirming the data, adjacent land use, existing traffic regulations, alternate routes, entrapment issues, impact to adjourning municipalities, etc.,” the DOT said. “If our investigation determines that approval can be recommended in the ‘interest of safety and the expeditious movement of traffic’ … our office will then request a certified adopted ordinance along with the suggested appropriate format for approval by the Commissioner of Transportation.”
The DOT also added that its process could take a couple of weeks to months or more before making a ruling.
Monroe believes it has the data to support the ordinance banning vehicles more than 8 tons to use the three streets from making deliveries into Cranbury. Likewise, Cranbury believes that Monroe does not have the legal standing to block trucks from using those streets.
The DOT’s decision-making process is determined by multiple state regulations.
During the October township council meeting, Weinberg outlined some of the reasons the municipal government believes it has a “good case” for the restrictive ordinance.
Weinberg cited the Liberty Way project as a significant reason for imposing the new weight limit.
“I think one of the challenges that we’ve been grappling with as we deal with this is not just the 20-million or 25-million square feet of warehouses that they built, but as they laid out in their master plan to build Liberty Way, [but] they never did that,” Weinberg said.
Cranbury referred questions about the Liberty Way project to Middlesex County since it is a joint-funded effort.
If ever completed, the bridge would connect the two portions of Liberty Way in Cranbury west of the NJ Turnpike that is separated by wetlands and the Cranbury Brook.
“Liberty Way was supposed to be a throughway [running] north-south, all the way from Hightstown Station Road all the way out to Old Trenton all the way across Cranbury Station Road all the way across Half Acre, all the way up to Cranbury Road so the tractor-trailers could literally flow all the way up to basically near the [NJ] Turnpike entrance,” Weinberg said. “I think it’s really a challenge for us to sort of watch that they have not really lived up to that.”
Cranbury has already authorized its legal team to prepare for any necessary legal action as a result of Monroe’s ordinance.
“The township committee voted to empower our attorney to take whatever legal action is required to protect our development rights, the rights to utilize county roads funded by our tax dollars,” said Cranbury Mayor James Taylor said in September. “By putting this ordinance in place Monroe is taking legal action against Cranbury. They are taking legal action to prohibit our access to roads we partly own through our county tax dollars.”
Cranbury also approved an resolution in October officially objecting to Monroe's plan that was sent to the county and the state. In part, the resolution states that Monroe's decision "... discriminates against certain truck traffic based only on its intended destination.”