CHATHAM, NJ - Traffic engineer Gary Dean came armed with 35 years of experience and the data to back it up, but Chatham residents were still wary of the potential traffic problems that they associated with the River Road Redevelopment Plan.

Dean made his "Traffic Impact Presentation" for the 259 rental units planned for the River Road Redevelopment on Monday night at the regular meeting of the Borough of Chatham Council.

Dean's presentation centered on the intersection of Watchung Avenue and River Road, where the redevelopment would begin and extend on River Road to the Crown Oil buildings located at 22 River Road.

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An overhead video recorded last spring with the use of a drone was shown at the meeting to give an idea of the current traffic conditions. The traffic impact study of "rush hours"  included nine intersections in Chatham and two in Summit. The study included intersections up Watchung to Fairmount Avenue and in Summit to Morris Avenue (see the video below).

Dean said the data is statistically analyzed to make his traffic congestion models. He explains in the video below that he erred on the side of caution to make sure he was giving an accurate picture.

In addition to his impact study, Dean provided a mitigation plan that included: Improved Pedestrian Circulation (crosswalk and sidewalk); an Increase in Corner Radius (rounding of turn at Watchung and River Road); an extended left-turn lane on Watchung Avenue, and Traffic signal modifications for improved phasing/detection. 

Dean said the complication of improving conditions is working out traffic problems between two counties - Morris and Union - and two the municipalities of Chatham and Summit. Dean and council member Jocelyn Mathiasen discuss the red tape that slows the improvement in the video below.

During the public commentary portion of the meeting, Chatham residents expressed their concerns about growing traffic congestion that will follow the River Road Redevelopment plan.

Among those who spoke up were Beth Salinardi, a resident of Watchung Avenue who has been the crossing guard at the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Watchung for 20 years; resident Debra Honer of Hillside Avenue and Jeff Stanton of Fern Avenue.

Salinardi said it will take more than a 24-hour snapshot of the traffic to gauge how the redevelopment units will affect other streets in Chatham and offered her viewpoint as the longtime crossing guard. Honer said she moved to Morris County from Bergen County, where she said congestion had affected the quality of life. She warned of the same problems to come in Morris County with the addition of the Dixiedale Development and the affordable housing units on Southern Boulevard in Chatham Township.

"Treating walkability as an afterthought is a critical error," Stanton said. He expressed his views on the redevelopment in the video below.