SHREWSBURY – One borough father said his son is openly fearful about crossing the street to Shrewsbury Borough School in the morning.
And during a recent borough council meeting, that father, Chris McEvoy, expressed his own fears about letting his son cross Obre Place to get to school.
“I like my son’s name, but I don’t want to see it associated with a law named after him because he got hit by a car and died,” McEvoy told the council and borough engineer David Cranmer.
The meeting served as a stage for Cranmer to present three potential plans for the borough to alleviate the vehicular dangers of Obre Place, a combination of highly trafficked side streets that connects to Samara Drive, doglegs behind a small shopping center and exits onto Route 35. Another section of the roadway also dead ends at The Shadowbrook.
The shopping center, which houses Shore Footed shoe store, Sandy Paws pet grooming, Salon Indigo and Lavish Lighting, includes a 35-space parking lot designated for store patrons only, but building owner Robert Tomaino said the lot is often used by parents either dropping off or picking up their children, before exiting onto Obre Place illegally and adding to the hazards.
Cranmer’s presentation noted that the concerns are twofold.
During morning drop-off periods and afternoon pick-ups, vehicles release and accept students on both sides of Obre Place. The side nearest school has a sidewalk for students to safely enter and exit vehicles, while the residential side of the roadway is devoid of sidewalks.
Second, those students who walk to school either travel along Route 35 and cut through the shopping center parking lot or utilize a sidewalk running along Obre Place and the shopping center parking lot, neither of which in their present form is the safest walking route, Cranmer said.
As proposed by the engineer, to make vehicle drop-off and pickup safer, the borough will create four designated 9 1/2-foot wide “endcaps” or cut-out parking areas spanning the section of Obre Place adjacent to the school, while also narrowing the roadway to 28 feet to curb vehicle speed.
Cranmer also proposed three potential options for safer walking routes.
The first option would widen the sidewalk along Route 35. This would not only impact the storefront properties but would mean borough police could no longer park a police vehicle on the state thoroughfare during peak school drop-off and dismissal hours.
The second option calls for a small walkway to be constructed through the commercial parking lot, which the borough would need the property owner and tenants to sign off on. It would also lead students through a parking lot, which presents its own hazards.
The third option proposes to widen the sidewalk on the dogleg section of Obre Place, that runs adjacent to the parking lot, making it a more accommodating place to walk, and narrowing the size of the roadway there to control speeds. The current sidewalk is connected by a crosswalk to the sidewalk that runs adjacent to the school and is patrolled by a crossing guard.
“This is a very nice presentation, but I think we’re over thinking this a bit,” Tomaino said. “This is a simple fix. Just put an officer out there. You need an authority figure out there to direct the kids and remind the parents they shouldn’t be using that lot. I’ve tried and I’ve been called ever y name in the book. You need an authority figure.”
Cranmer said the borough plans to move for ward with one of the options later this year and expects the work to be conducted over the summer and completed by the beginning of next school year.
The total cost of the project will be approximately $400,000, offset by $350,000 in state funding, according to Cranmer.
This article was first published in the Feb. 28-March. 6, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.
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