By John Burton |
RED BANK — Shrewsbury Avenue is a busy stretch of county road which can be tricky for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate, but plans are in the works to improve safety at two of its intersections.
New crosswalks at Catherine and River Streets and enhancements for walkers near the River Street Commons senior housing facility are planned.
The borough Environmental Commission wants to support a sustainable community for pedestrians, bikers and cars. “I think we’re all committed to that,” said Commission chairman Frank Corrado, adding it should be a “collaborative effort.” He and Vice Chair Kate Triggiano held a traffic safety information session with a panel of stakeholders and an audience of 30 residents Tuesday.
Monmouth County Engineer Joseph Ettore said the plan grew out of ongoing conversations with Mayor Pasquale Menna and Freeholder Thomas Arnone.
On a larger scale, the county has applied for a grant from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, said Ettore. That funding would allow the county engineers to install improvements along the length of Shrewsbury Avenue in the borough, from Newman Springs Road/Route 520 to West Front Street. Ettore said that project, if approved, would have crosswalks, handicap accessible curb cuts, flashing pedestrian crossing lights (like on East Front Street and Maple Avenue), and possibly additional traffic signals. The county’s application for the grant was passed over last year, but Ettore said he was hopeful it would be approved this year.
In the past, the grant from the North Jersey Planning Authority has been used for safety improvements for East Front Street in the vicinity of Riverview Medical Center. With the input of borough officials, county engineers also made changes to the Hubbard Bridge project connecting the borough to Middletown’s River Plaza, providing for additional pedestrian safety provisions like sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, Ettore pointed out.
Red Bank and Monmouth County have worked together well on these traffic/pedestrian improvements, said Ettore. “Probably no municipality has received greater attention,” from the county, Ettore said.
The Environmental Commission has been seeking the public’s response in a survey, available on the borough website at RedBankNJ.org, about cycling and walking in the borough. The commission will be accepting the surveys until Friday, Oct. 13.
So far the commission has received 86 responses, according to Triggiano, which she deemed “pretty good.”
The responses so far have indicated a lot of concern about bicycling and walking safety around the community, said Triggiano.
Police Chief Darren McConnell and Sgt. Matt Ehrenreich, the department traffic supervisor, said the statistics would indicate that progress has continued in reducing the number of pedestrian/cyclist/motor vehicle collisions. When he was traffic officer 12 years ago, there could be as many as 25-30 collisions annually, McConnell recalled. Now, on average, that number has been reduced by more than half. “So, our rate is pretty good when you compare it with other places with comparable traffic,” McConnell said.
Last year there were 10 such collisions, with one significant injury. So far for this year there have been six, without serious injuries, Ehrenreich said.
In part, the improved numbers can be attributed to heightened enforcement, the officers noted. The department issues about 5,000-6,000 moving violations a year. Officers have issued 267 cell phone violations to date this year, but, “We stop twice that actual number,” McConnell said, explaining many of those stops result in a warning. He estimated another half-million people see those traffic stops, which McConnell believes can act as a deterrent.
For the county’s approximately 3,000 miles of roadway, there is on average one pedestrian/cycling fatality annually, according to the county engineering department. The Federal Highway Administration has designated New Jersey as a Pedestrian Safety Focus State, which means it needs improvement, Ettore acknowledged.
Also helping in reducing collisions are steps the police and county borough engineers have taken to address problem spots, ensuring crosswalk striping is replaced when needed and signs are installed; and concentrating enforcement on areas “where we have problems,” McConnell said.
Cliff Keene, Public Works Utilities director, said his department monitors crosswalks and when roads are repaved considers marking them for shared roadway with bikes and vehicles. Most of the borough roadways are just too narrow and many allow parking on both sides, making them unsuitable for striped formal bike lanes. Instead, when streets are repaved, workers put “sharrows,” a stenciled silhouetted cyclist and chevrons and signage to indicate a shared roadway, encouraging motorists to be particularly conscious of bicycles.
No bike lane striping is better than an incorrectly striped one, Ettore warned. “You can’t just put up a sign without making it safe,” he said.
“We have a lot of walkers in our town, if you didn’t already know that,” Triggiano said. And while Red Bank had drafted a pedestrian/cycling master plan about seven years ago, Corrado said the idea is to do what Fair Haven has done in analyzing the data and making recommendations for the Borough Council’s consideration for long-term planning purposes.
“I think we’re committed to seeing this through to improve things,” he said.
This article was first published in the Oct. 12-19, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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