CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Borough is always looking for volunteers to do public service. The Borough of Chatham Council got one on Tuesday night.
Longtime Chatham Borough resident Fran Drew came before the Borough of Chatham Council to discuss traffic congestion and offered her services, asking the council to "Put me on the fight" at the regular meeting.
Robert Falzarano, borough administrator, informed Drew that he would be on a conference call April 18 with tne state DOT. Falzarano acknowledged that at this point, the best Chatham can hope for in the near future is "management" of the traffic flow on Main Street through the synchronization of the traffic lights.
Falzarano explained that he produced a power-point presentation to the state in an effort to educate them on how the situation got to this point: "We are working on it."
Robert Falzarano, borough administrator, and resident Fran Drew discuss what is being done to communicate with the state about the traffic congestion on Main Street
Drew updated the council during the public portion of the meeting about her personal effort to communicate with the county and the state. She wrote a certified letter to the Morris County Department of Public Works in May of 2015, asking the county to reopen the original interchange in Madison that was built when Route 24 opened.
She received an answer to her letter from Christopher Vitz, county engineer, dated April 3, 2107.
In her letter, Drew cited statistics gathered by Vince DeNave, borough engineer, and detailed how 32,000 cars passed through Chatham on a daily basis - 20,000 on Main Street and 12,000 on Watchung Avenue - and informed the county of the pollution caused by the "clogged" streets.
"This condition is the result of a major mistake made by the mayor of Chatham about 30 years ago," Drew said. "At the time, the mayor conceded to the mayor of Madison, who did not want the interchange from the new Route 24 dumping traffic in Madison, onto Ridgedale Avenue, or nearby."
Drew also pointed out that when motorists exit to Chatham from Route 24, the next exit is seven miles away, which is the longest distance between two exits on Route 24.
"Chatham is the eastern Gate to Morris County....and it's clogged, clogged, clogged with heavy traffic," Drew said.
In his response, Vitz said in part: "The state is currently in concept development on a project to alleviate congestion at the Route 24/Columbia Turnpike interchange ... the state legislature did send a formal request to the NJDOT to invesitage a new interchange as well as widening Route 24."
Vitz suggested that Drew continue to discuss the issue with her local municipal officials.
Chatham resident Fran Drew reviews the facts about traffic congestion on Main Street during public portion of borough council meeting
Jack Drew, Fran's husband, also spoke during the public portion of the meeting and asked the council to keep up the fight and not be discouraged.
"It takes a continuing effort and a willingness not to be told no and give up on it," Drew said. "It has to be done. Improving the traffic flow is fine for the people who are driving. It doesn't do anything about the pollution."
Jack Drew also offered some alarming statistics on pedestrian safety he discovered while researching the "Glimmer Glass Bridge" in Manasquan, which the Drews campaigned to save (the bridge was repaired and reopened in 2016).
"In our studies about this bridge, we found that federal studies have been done which showed that an increase of speed from 20 to 30 miles an hour increase pedestrian fatalities seven-fold," Jack Drew said. "It also found that a pedestrian hit at 20 miles an hour, there is a 30 percent probability it will be fatal. If a pedestrian is hit at 30 miles an hour, there is a 97 percent probability that it will be fatal."
A pedestrian was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Shunpike Road in Chatham in January.
Jack Drew tells council "not to be discouraged" in its fight to reduce traffic and recited some alarming facts about fatal pedestrian accidents