Brick Township officials say they have yet to receive any word from the state on the petition to ban left turns out of the Wawa store at the intersection of Route 88 and Jack Martin Boulevard – a glitch that has not only raised the ire of motorists and elected officials, but has prevented the construction of a Popeyes fast food restaurant from getting off the ground.
“There have been so many consistent follow-ups by my office, the mayor’s office and Traffic Safety, Engineering, and Land Use,” said township Business Administrator Joanne Bergin. “It’s been crickets.”
The township’s planning board approved the Wawa in 2018 and it opened to customers in November 2021. Though residents and board members both brought up the potential for dangerous traffic conditions to be generated by allowing left turns from into and out of the Wawa from the busy state highway, the state Department of Transportation approved the proposal, leaving the board with no power to compel signage or a new highway rule. Township officials, however, almost immediately sought a “no left turn” rule to be established by the state, and at the NJDOT’s request, submitted a formal letter of support for the ban.
More than five years after approval and two years after the Wawa opened, the state has yet to act, Bergin said following a question from a resident at a recent meeting of the township council.
“The origin of the traffic problem was related to Wawa,” said resident Charles Bacon, who pointed out that during a later hearing, the board approved a Popeyes fast food restaurant on the condition that the left-turn ban be adopted.
Bergin said the state initially responded quickly the township’s request, and council members at the time modified an agenda to support the prohibition on left turns immediately.
“The day we got the request, we put it on the agenda, and yet they have done absolutely nothing in terms of the signage and formalizing the no left turn rule,” said Bergin.
The Wawa-anchored shopping center is located at the site formerly occupied by the Laurelton Mobile Home Park, which still exists behind the commercial site in a smaller form. The township’s zoning board, in a 4-3 decision, approved an application that would bring the fast food chain to the site, which is owned by developer Jack Morris through a holding company known as JSM at Martin Boulevard LLC.
The Popeyes location would be north of the Wawa, and would include a double drive-through lane. A bank was originally proposed for the site, though it does not appear that project is being pursued.
Board members conditioned their approval of the Popeyes restaurant on the prohibition of left turns into and out of the site. Township Planner Tara Paxton said there have been numerous crashes at the Wawa location since it opened. The approval also requires JSM, the developer, to install angled curbing to physically prevent vehicles from making illegal turns onto the property.
“The answer we get is that it’s still being worked out with their legal department at the DOT,” Bergin said last week. “We will continue to follow up, we support it, and the council supported it the day they were asked to support it.”
Council President Vince Minichino said he would follow up on the matter.
Shorebeat has requested an update from the NJDOT on the issue and is awaiting a response.