SOUTH BRUNSWICK — A congestion relief pilot project on Route 1 delivered the results officials had been hoping for, so the state is in the process of making it a permanent improvement.

By utilizing the shoulder of the highway as a travel lane during peak travel times from Raymond Road to Promenade Boulevard — where three lanes merge to two — commuting times have been cut by 50 percent, the New Jersey Department of Transportation announced Monday.

The project has been running since June 2017, allowing cars to utilize the shoulder Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

During a six-month evaluation of the program, the average vehicle speed was 31 m.p.h. through peak commuting times. It was 13 m.p.h. in 2015.

Years ago, before the pilot program was initiated, the targeted section of Route 1 carried an average of 5,600 cars southbound during the morning rush. During the same rush within the pilot program, it carried more than 6,000 cars.

"Also, by having those cars spread out over three lanes instead of two, it actually creates more space and it's much safer for drivers," DOT spokesman Steve Schapiro told New Jersey 101.5, noting the move is a stress reducer as well.

"It's amazing how like-minded groups, in this case NJDOT and South Brunswick Township, can work in a cooperative and collaborative effort to solve a long-standing egregious issue that many had claimed to be unsolvable," South Brunswick Councilman Joseph J. Camarota, Jr. said in a news release.

The department may extend the limits of the program when it is made permanent.

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