Motorists traveling busy and often crowded Interstate 80 through the Delaware River Gap received some reassurance at the end of last week when New Jersey Department of Transportation officials said cave-like erosion beneath the eastbound lanes was nothing to worry about at this time.


Then that reassurance slipped a bit when the DOT’s prepared statement added, “but the condition does need repair.”


Actually, that reassurance was a bit rocky to begin with as the cave was inspected by DOT personnel only after it was brought to their attention by citizens who have been vocal about a controversial proposed rockfall mitigation project near that stretch of roadway.


The statement did not admit the DOT was unaware of the large indentation beneath the interstate, but politely included: “NJDOT appreciates residents bringing potential safety concerns to the attention of the Department.”


It goes on to caution the public to not risk their personal safety by investigating such concerns on their own, instructing residents to instead notify the department which will then send a professional “to conduct any needed evaluations in a safe manner.”


Comforting reassurance is sometimes difficult to accept from the DOT which has been less than forthcoming with details justifying the multimillion-dollar rockfall mitigation project that is facing opposition on both sides of the Delaware. Documentation of numerous accidents that the DOT says have been caused by fallen rocks on the highway has not been provided.


The rockfall project has been deemed necessary by the DOT to assure the safety of motorists. Though the extent of the repairs necessary to the erosion publicized last week is not yet known, suffice it to say that, too, could be a safety issue.


Once the DOT has completed its “further evaluation” to determine the scope of the issue mentioned in its statement, the results of that evaluation should be shared with the public, followed by how and when repairs will be done. Such willing and open dissemination of information would be a step toward gaining the public’s confidence.


In response to a question from The New Jersey Herald, the DOT said that residents who would like an update on the I-80 erosion issue, or have any questions or concerns, can contact the NJDOT Office of Community and Constituent Relations by email at correspondence.unit@dot.nj.gov or by phone at 609-963-1982.


Residents concerned with this potential safety issue should take them up on their offer. As the DOT said in its statement, “Working together as partners helps ensure New Jersey’s roads and bridges are safe and reliable.”


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