By John Burton |
RED BANK – The call by borough officials for another state traffic analysis and plea for a new traffic signal for a problematic intersection have been met with another apparent “no” from Trenton.
The Borough Council’s Oct. 11 resolution sought to have the state Department of Transportation (DOT) again evaluate the intersection at Riverside Avenue/State Route 35 and Bodman Place, a particularly sticky traffic location at the borough’s northernmost point.
“The borough is trying to tell them, stop the talking,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said last week. “Now get to work and come up with a solution.”
But the DOT said it has been down this road before with borough officials about this location and its response remains unchanged. “NJDOT has investigated this request numerous times over several decades and has communicated to elected officials on multiple occasions that adding a traffic signal at the intersection of Bodman Place and Route 35/Riverside Avenue is not feasible,” said Steve Schapiro, the department’s director of communications, in response to The Two River Times’ request for comment about the recent resolution.
Schapiro explained the most recent DOT investigation of the intersection occurred in late 2016, followed by a meeting with local officials in early 2017, “to once again explain to the town that adding a signal is not warranted.”
Menna remembered that DOT review as “an army of individuals, all of them making the same notes, and one or two persons talking and looking at each other.”
Menna took Schapiro’s assessment as “a typical bureaucratic response from individuals who are indifferent to the conditions on the ground.”
For years the borough has experienced pedestrian safety issues along Riverside Avenue, which is an extension of state Route 35 through the borough, and has had state Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-11) reach out to state transportation officials for assistance.
The area is lined with several restaurants, apartment developments, senior housing complexes, office buildings and access to two hotels. Over the last 20 years, according to Menna, traffic has intensified and development has changed the complexion of the area. “Frankly, the intersection was fine 20 years ago,” Menna said, “but no longer.”
Bodman Place has Oyster Point hotel, along with condominiums and office buildings, and leads out to Riverside Avenue. The problem, Menna noted again, which other borough officials have brought up over the last few years, concerns traffic moving onto Riverside from Bodman, especially those turning left to travel southbound, as well as traffic traveling south on Riverside, looking to turn left onto Bodman.
Riverside Avenue is a four-lane road that has an S-curve in that area, in close proximity to Route 35 at the Coopers Bridge. Traffic travels at a pretty quick pace, creating a dangerous mix, Menna pointed out.
Menna is a lawyer who maintains offices on Bodman Place. He said he is well aware of the intersection’s difficulties, facing them almost daily.
The borough police’s Traffic Safety Division also supports the traffic light recommendation, according to the resolution.
“Frankly, at the end of the day, the reason they’re being shy about it is financial,” Menna said, alleging the state DOT doesn’t want to spend money for a traffic signal, when another signal is close by.
A traffic signal could cost up to $250,000, according to Menna, and the borough would be willing to pay 25 percent of the cost, the standard local contribution. As for it being too close to another light, the mayor pointed to traffic lights, authorized by the DOT, at the West Front/Water streets and Water Street/Maple Avenue intersections, which are close to other signals; as well as the fact that Asbury Park, along Route 71, has signals at seemingly every intersection.
Borough officials have formally designated Riverside Avenue as an area in need of rehabilitation. That was done, Menna noted, in anticipation of redevelopment of some of the properties along that corridor.
And that, Menna determined, makes traffic and pedestrian safety improvements that much more important.
Schapiro said DOT engineers feel a traffic signal at Bodman “would increase the potential for same direction crashes and create coordination issues negatively affecting traffic on Route 35.”
Menna said he’s keeping his fingers crossed that with a new administration in Trenton next year. “Hopefully, that attitude can change,” he said.
This article was first published in the Nov. 16-23, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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