Archive for the ‘driving’ Category

iphone app helps jersey drives avoid traffic jams

There’s now an iPhone app to get traffic updates about various NJ highways. What’s cools about the Trumpit service (aside from the name which is terrible) is that you can set it for alerts and when they come in, you press a button and the audio is played, for hands free use. It’s just one more feature from the 511 website which is really a must visit for anyone who travels the turnpike, GSP, 287 or any other major highway. One feature of both the site and the app is travel time. it’ll tell you the time it will currently take to travel from say exit 82 to exit 38 on the GSP (toms river to AC) and its updated every few mins.

My only question is when is it coming out for Android?

the knights of Bloomingdale

Scenic byway designation sought for Route 78

towns banding together, pushing for designation

A somewhat shorter, but still scenic, stretch of Route 78 in northwest New Jersey has been proposed for designation as a scenic byway. A dozen towns in Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset counties joined forces last month, applying with the state Department of Transportation for the interstate corridor to be declared a “New Jersey Historic and Scenic Byway.”

Towns in Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset counties have applied to have part of Route 78 declared a ‘New Jersey Historic and Scenic Byway.’ But three other towns initially proposed as part of the byway — Alpha, Phillipsburg and Bridgewater — opted not to take part, reducing the 29-mile scenic swath originally envisioned to about 24 miles.

One Alpha councilman said he voted against joining partly be cause it would eliminate billboards proposed for town-owned land. Alpha, in Warren County, currently receives between $1,000 and $2,000 per month rent for a billboard on property near the Pennsylvania border. Other billboards also are proposed for Alpha’s land, which includes industrial and farm land, Councilman Harry Zikas Jr. said.

“Those billboards would be so out of the way they wouldn’t bother anyone in town, and we’d be able to make the profit,” Zikas said. “We’re looking to get revenue any which way we can. Had we joined the proposal, those billboards would not be permitted.” The scenic byway proposal was started last spring, led by Lebanon Borough Mayor Mark Paradis. He said the idea was to preserve the scenic beauty of the corridor, which runs through mountains, forests and farmland, and passes by picturesque small towns. The roadway has history as well: It began as a Native American trade route, grew into a local road, and in 1917 be came one of New Jersey’s first 15 state highways.

“It’s a remarkable east-west corridor that has some significant history to it, and we feel that it’s important for people to realize that and for us to preserve it,” Paradis said. Scenic byway designation also means no off-premises signs can be built that are “visible to any highway or portion of a highway designated as a scenic byway, or … nominated for designation,” according to the state Department of Transportation.

Lebanon Borough is involved in a legal tussle with an outdoor ad vertising company, after a proposed billboard was turned down by the planning board last summer. The mayor said scenic byway designation was not sought simply as a way to block billboards, however. “There is some protection from billboards, but that’s really not the real reason we’re doing this,” he said. “We feel this corridor is something that has a story to tell.” As far as the other towns’ reluc tance to take part, Paradis said, “we’re not trying to tell them what to do. “We understand it’s an economic (matter),” he said of Alpha’s billboard revenue. “I still feel Alpha is a viable partner in working with us.”

Look Out!

When driving down this road… it looks like you’e going to drive right into the lake

but when you get to the top of the crest you see…

… that it’s an optical illusion created by the hill, the curve to the left once you crest the hill, and the lake that lies beyond….

A warning on what not to do when driving in the Pine Barrens in a non 4×4

We drove down to Tabernacle, NJ, deep in the Pine Barrens to do a Jersey Devil Hunt,but the trip was not without incident. Whats a JD hunt? It’s an event sponsored by the Pinelands Preservation Assn. The partipants meet near the Carranza Memorial. There’s a camp fire. You roast hot dogs. Marshmellows are toasted. As the sun goes down Russell Juleg tells stories about the Pine Barrens and by the 9PM it is totally dark out. At this point everyone heads out for an hour hike in the woods looking for JD. I imagine at some point this becomes something like the Blair Witch project. I wouldn’t know because we never made it…. well we made it on a second trip but that night we were waylaid by the sands of the Pine Barrens.

We left North Jersey at 530 to go 100 miles on the NJTPK at rush hour on a Friday in summer. Seemed pointless but the trip actually went quite well and we arrived in the general vicinity by 730. We knew that as long as we got there by 745 or so we’d be ok, only missing the camp fire stuff. We would still make the main event. At this point I should point out that GPS units do not know the difference between real roads and paper roads. Paper roads are roads that exist on paper but which are unpaved and often not meant for travel if you do not not own a 4×4. Well thanks to the Garmin thinking that a trail through the woods qualified as a “road” we took an unpaved road that eventually wound into what appeared to be someones back yard. Real Hee-Haw territory. All I needed to see was a mangy dog and chickens.

We made a bat turn then headed for the Carranza Memorial. The directions claimed it was just past the Memorial, so I drove past it, saw an entrance for some campgrounds and well, its the right place it seems, they mentioned a camp fire, so I checked it out. It was a dirt trail, clearly useable by cars…. I go past a few families having a cookout, a few more empty areas, a little farther, a little farther, finally i say, “No, this must not be it, lets turn around.”

I pull off road to make a u-turn. My wife sees it is sandy. I don’t. She doesnt manage to get out words of warning before I hit the sand. Now this isn’t just sand, it’s more like…. quicksand. I go 3 feet off road and just come to a halt. Now the fun begins.

I cant go foward. Cant go backward, Try rocking myself out. nope nope & nope. I am buried. I take the lid to my storage box in my trunk and start digging. Both wheels. Rockrockrock. Nopenopenope. We have been there maybe 5 minutes total when (thats the sounds of angels singing btw…) here comes jeff and his Jeep Cherokee!


This guy just shows up and says “need any help?” Hmmm.. I’m stuck in sand, and he’s got a tow rope and a 4×4. HELL YEAH I COULD USE HELP! Did I mention this guy used to drive for AAA?

So he pulls off road (and doesnt get stuck mind you) and hooks up a tow rope. He starts pullin me out but I’m wedged too tight in the sand. In the picture above he is running to fetch some boards to stick under my tires. In probably no more then 10 minutes he has us pulled free and clear. I know I would’ve been there way past darkfall waiting for AAA if Jeff hadn’t showed up…

Sierra Exif JPEG

This shows how much crap I kicked up spinning my wheels. I am still wondering if I got sand into any intake or anything. I haven’t driven since the incident, but I did drive 100 miles to get home without incident so I believe I am ok.

Sierra Exif JPEG

My bumper made nice smooth sand as I was ragged. Shame is I ripped something off from underneath the bumper in the process, a rubber cover. This happen once before (losing the cover, not getting stuck in the sand ) and I had it replaced. I seem to recall it was $300 but I may be wrong & I’m hoping to replace it back into its spot myself… we’ll see

Sierra Exif JPEG

This shows how deep I dug in spinning my wheels.

so let this be a lesson to you all. Don’t be stupid and stay on road, unless you have 4 wheel drive!

Thunderbolt raceway gives fans a chance to drive fast

It’s safer then driving Route 80

David Epstein wore a bright red fire-retardant racing suit and helmet as he stepped into his red Ferrari F430 for a few 140 mph spins around the track at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The experience “puts a big smile on your face,” Epstein, 47, the president of Novartis Oncology, said before pulling away. “If you’ve had good training with good coaches and you don’t do anything crazy, it’s not really risky. … It’s probably safer than driving down Route 80.” Five years and $50 million in the making so far, the newly opened facility in Cumberland County is New Jersey’s only road-racing facility, and one of the few in the nation to have two full racetracks.

The 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway kicked off its first spectator event this weekend, with the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association competition. The twisting, turning track hosts high-profile road races such as the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, as well as car clubs and training programs such as the Performance Drivers Association, which Epstein enrolled in as a student. The smaller Lightning Raceway opened in July. Last week, 11 thrill-seekers zoomed around the 1.9-mile circuit’s steeply banked hairpin turn in Lamborghini Gallareos — one in bright orange, the other in yellow — as well as Aston Martins, Porsche Turbos and Ferraris, in a one-day driving program called Supercar Life.

Even the park’s 1.1-mile go-kart track is designed for speeds of 55 mph, or more. But the 700-acre facility is not just a place to zip around in fast cars, according to its operators. “This is a theme park,” said Donald Fauerbach, general manager. “The theme here, of course, is the motorsports lifestyle.” Condominiums overlooking Thunderbolt are on the market for $450,000, and 38 of the planned 182 total have already sold, Fauerbach said. Twenty suites overlook Thunderbolt’s pit lane. A 450-seat banquet room has fielded inquiries about wedding receptions overlooking the track’s straightaway, Fauerback said. A pool, tennis courts, and eventually a stock-car racing oval and all-terrain vehicle park are in the works, he said.

“It’s a country-club-style racetrack,” said Chris Economaki, 87, a longtime auto-racing commentator who lives in Midland Park. The facility attracts wealthy sports car fans who are flown by helicopter into the adjacent Millville Airport, as well as drivers of more modest means who rumble onto the track in souped-up Ford Mustangs, Mazda Miatas and Subaru Imprezas. The circuits are located in a sparsely populated section of Millville, a few miles from the sleepy downtown. Some residents were nervous when they heard about the plans five years ago, said Don Ayres, the town’s director of economic development. “There were concerns about noise, concerns about rowdy racecar drivers rampaging through town,” he said. But the town has heard only “one or two” complaints, with most residents saying they barely notice the noise and welcome the free-spending visitors, he said.

Local restaurants have been so busy they’ve occasionally run out of food, and the town is in talks with five hotel developers, Ayres said. “It’s the noise of the economy improving, that’s what I say,” he said. Even so, the track installed sound walls so it wouldn’t disturb birds during their mating season, as part of a legal settlement with environmentalists, Ayres said. Many proposed racetracks fail because of community opposition, with noise and traffic being the main concerns, said Matthew Pace, a sports business attorney with the firm Herrick, Feinstein. But the NASCAR-style, oval tracks that draw huge crowds are the main focus of such protests, he said. Such circuits make up about 85 percent of the country’s 1,400 racetracks, he said.

Long, twisting, hilly road circuits — which make most of their money from high-spending drivers and sponsorships, rather than spectators — tend to attract less opposition, he said. Even the economic downturn and high gas prices are unlikely to hurt the road-racing business much, he said. “If you’re driving a Ferrari you probably don’t have to worry about the $100 you’re going to spend on gas to drive it around the track all day,” he said. Road courses, which make up only 5 percent of the nation’s racetracks, are “a little bit more gentlemanly, a lit bit more leisurely” than NASCAR-style tracks, with spectators roaming from vantage point to vantage point, said Tim Frost, a motorsports consultant. “I would compare it to going to Saratoga as opposed to going to Belmont,” he said.

Naima Rauam, a silver-haired watercolorist who drove from New York City in a Corvette Z06, said it didn’t bother her to be one of the few women, and one of the older students, in the Performance Driving Association training program, which includes classroom lessons and high-speed laps around Thunderbolt with an instructor in the passenger seat. “You’ve got everything from your hotshot 18-year-olds to people much later in life,” she said. High-performance driving attracts all kinds of students as well as all kinds of cars, said Joe Casella, who runs the training program. “We had a gentleman who would bring his Volvo station wagon, and when he went home his wife would go to the grocery store with it,” Casella said. The racetrack has a way of equalizing things, insisted Steven Van Blarcom, whose In the Seat Driving Experience program rents Mustang GTs to Casella’s students. “It wouldn’t be uncommon for someone in a Mazda Miata to beat a Porsche,” Van Blarcom said. “Skill wins out over horsepower.”

No more GSP tokens

The token is being phased outGet rid of them beforen they become Ebay fodder

Garden State Parkway toll tokens will cease to be accepted in payment of tolls in the new year, signaling the end of an era for an early mode of automatic toll payment. The tokens were last sold Jan 1 2002 but motorists hoarded so many – an estimated 50 million – they continue to be used in small numbers in the Parkway’s automatic coin machines. Sold in rolls of 30 for $10 vs $10.50 for the same number of cash tolls they have offered a 4.8% discount over coins since 1989.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority which runs the Parkway has announced a “token redemption program” to buy up remaining tokens. It is offering $5 for a minimum of 15 car tokens and $1 for others handed over in multiples of 3. That’s 33.3c/token (for the arithmetically challenged.) The car tokens are redeemable at the Montvale (MP171), Cheesequake (MP124) and Forked River (MP76) service plazas on select days in December and by appointment at the head offices of the Authority in Woodbridge. Bus tokens are also redeemable by appointment. or tel 732 750 5473

Officials think there may be about 16 million tokens out there still. One rationale for not accepting tokens as payment is that they just add to the complexity of counting the coins. Their elimination also helps pave the way for elimination of coin machines entirely in a few years time – though that is not an official explanation. But we’d wager it won’t be more than a few years before video tolling will take over for those without transponders and toll collection becomes all off-road, all-electronic. Also the planned toll increases provide a windfall to token holders and a loss to the toller. Tolls are rising from 35c at two-way plazas to 50c, and at the one-way plazas from 70c to $1. The toll increases are scheduled for around Dec 1.

The NJTA has scheduled a second round of toll increases of 50% – 50c to 75c – for Jan 1 2012. Tokens are not that old on the Parkway, though they have been used in subway turnstiles and for telephone calls going back 50 years. They were introduced in the early 1980s on the Garden State Parkway in anticipation of a toll increase beyond the quarter. When the toll was still a quarter rolls of 40 tokens were sold for $10 so there was no discount. Tokens didn’t serve much purpose. From 1989 on when the toll was finally increased to 35c tokens came into their own. Rolls of 30 tokens were sold for the same $10, making them cost 33.3c each.

For commuters the single unit throw of a token a much surer thing than the throw of a quarter and a dime, or the quarter and two nickels, let alone three dimes and a nickel. The rule with coin machines has always been: the more the number of coins thrown and the smaller the coins the greater the incidence of hangups – coins not making it down into the mechanism from the basket. Dimes have always been especially troublesome. They are so small they hang up easily. Then the tollpayers gets delayed. There are frustrated and angry motorists.

Jersey writer Anthony Buccino wrote: “We’ve always wondered if the old wives who said misery loves company ever spent time, endless smog-filled rush hours in line, attempting to pay a toll on the Garden State Parkway. In countless hours of studying the pained expressions of obsessed drivers queued before the flashing red and green lights at the roadway obstructions, we have never recorded a smile other than the maniacal grin as someone launches a round metal missile at the urinal shaped receptacle…” (see

New Hampshire Turnpike stopped accepting tokens in toll lanes Jan 1 2006, but one stubborn Bostonian is challenging the legality of that. Graham Thomas Jensen of Braintree MA subsequently offered two 25c tokens to a toll collector, and when the collector refused to accept them in payment of a 50c toll, Jensen drove off. Hit with toll evasion he was fined $150 but refused to pay and spent three days in jail. His lawyer says that the tokens have no expiry date stamped on them and that the packaging of the tokens also contained no warning of any expiry date. He argues since the tokens were sold to his client without any expiry warning they remain a legal obligation of the issuer indefinitely.

By common law contract Jensen’s lawyer says the tokens sold without an expiry date must be acceptable in payment. This, he argues, overrides a June 2005 law which ended sales of tokens Sept 1 2005 and made tokens invalid as toll payment from Jan 1 2006.

A history “The First Five Years of the Garden State Parkway: 1954-1959” published by the New Jersey Highway Authority (which operated the Parkway until 2003) mentions “automatic toll collectors” (what we call ‘automatic coin machines’ or ATMs nowadays) as having been introduced very early – “as an experiment in late 1954.” They had spread to most toll plazas and ramps on the Parkway by 1959. We’ve heard elsewhere that these were machines from Cooper & Taller of Brooklyn NY and the pioneers of coin machines with their characteristic coin ‘basket’. A toll veteran of that era told us the Garden State Parkway was the first place in the world that ACMs were put into regular service.

The official history says they could take any combination of coins including pennies, but that a bunch of pennies tended to jam them. First tolls were collected on the GSP manually Jan 15 1954 at the Union Plaza when toll collector Edward Circhoswski was handed a quarter by motorist George R Vranken of Linden NJ, the official history says. Traffic had been traveling for free for three introductory days previously. This was in the first section of the Parkway completed – between US22 and the Essex-Union County line. Tolls were 25c for cars at barrier plazas. That’s $1.91 in 2007 dollars ( Based on the eleven mainline toll plazas then in use toll plazas were an average of 16 miles (26km) apart, making the toll 1.6c/mile (1c/km). In 2007$s that’s 12.2c/mile, 7.6c/km.

Toll revenue in the first year was $9.3m, almost doubling after five years ($18.1m in 1959). The history says that first year revenue was just 3% over forecast by “traffic engineers” (Maybe that’s the problem with modern traffic and revenue studies – they’re done by finance & economics guys like Ed Regan not traffic engineers?) Actual revenue in subsequent years was further ahead of the forecasts made when the toll revenue bonds were sold for construction.Toll tickets in booklets of 80 were sold from 1956 onward. At first they offered no discount but they provided a handy way of claiming expenses and avoided the need to have coins handy.

We’d guess – there are no plans we know of – that the ACMs will last until about 2011 on the Parkway and that cash collection via human collectors and machines will cease in time for the 2012 toll increase.The Turnpike recently sent a bunch of tokens to the Smithsonian Museum. They should make sure some coin machines are preserved for history too.

Turkey vulture crashes thru windshield injuring motorist on Route 80

The turkey vulture survived the impact

Keeping his eyes on the road wasn’t enough to keep a motorist out of trouble on Interstate 80 in north Jersey today. State police said a turkey vulture flew into the windshield as 35-year-old Jorge Hurtado’s minivan traveled eastbound on Route 80 in Parsippany. State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said the bird struck Hurtado’s 32-year-old wife, Vanessa, in the face, causing minor cuts and sending glass in her eyes. She was taken to St. Clare’s Hospital in Denville for treatment.

The Hopatcong man told troopers the bird ended up on the middle seat behind him and was alive for a brief time. Trooper Brian Miller declared the vulture dead at the scene. Miller said Vanessa Hurtado requested that Eagle Towing remove the carcass so that it would not sit in the hot vehicle all day.

Excellent website for traffic information

This website will tell you anything and everything about traffic conditions in NJ. You can also call 511 on your cell phone and get information about traffic delays and construction. It utilizes a voice prompt system and is very good at understanding what you say. If you say “Garden State Parkway exit 151” it will tell you about anything going on near that exit.

The longest lights in NJ

The average red light in the US lasts 45 seconds. These are the two longest traffic lights in the state of NJ. The first one is over 2 minutes, and the second one is 3 minutes. What might make you crazy is that there are no cross streets and hardly ever any traffic. So why are they so long?

The photo below was taken on Seven Bridges Rd on Mystic Island near Tuckerton. It is a two lane road that goes over over the marshes and conencts several islands over seven bridges, thus the name. The bridges were built with only one lane and they have blind curves, so to insure that a driver can safely get across and not run into someone else, there is a light on each of the last 3 bridges, and 2 minutes is the amount of time they figure is safe to ensure that there’s no one still coming. Just watch for fisherman on these bridges though….


This picture was taken just off the last exit on Route 80 in NJ and leads to Old Mine Rd, one of the oldest roads in the United States. It takes you thru the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and leads to the town of Walpack. Like the road above, it is primarily a two lane road, but at one lengthy stretch the road can only accomdate one lane of traffic. To allow people to safely get past this narrow section of road, the light is 3 minutes long.

Needless to say, this is one place you never ever want to run these red lights….