Yesterday, the Complete Streets Sub-Committee hosted two public open houses to introduce an early, conceptual design that aims to address pedestrian safety issues in downtown Millburn through a complete streets program that seeks to balance the needs of all users in the downtown. Arterial & Sam Schwartz Engineering, the team chosen by the subcommittee to lead this Complete Streets Initiative, walked members of the community through the initial concepts and gathered valuable input from residents and downtown business owners of the issues that have plagued the downtown for years.
The Township Committee approved a resolution establishing and adopting a Complete Streets policy for the township. The members of the Complete Streets Sub-Committee are W. Theodore Bourke, Millburn’s Deputy Mayor, and Ian Mount, a member of the Township Committee.
The township policy is modeled on the New Jersey Department of Transportation's Complete Streets policy. Essex County was the first to adopt a Complete Streets in New Jersey. Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. As John McCormick of Sam Schwartz Engineering explained “it is a system that provides balance between pedestrians and vehicles. It succeeds by reeducating people and changing their behavior and restores courtesy to the street.” There are many aspects to the plan: signage and way-finding, reverse-angle parking, shared lane markings to communicate that vehicles should share the road with bicyclists, enhanced mid-block crossings, tabled intersections, accessible curb ramps for the disabled, curb bump-outs and a uniform street furniture palette (e.g. matching garbage cans.)
In the fall, Sam Schwartz Engineering will conduct an aerial traffic study by helicopter on one weekday during the later afternoon into the early evening. It is intended to assess the number of vehicles originating in and staying in the township as well as the number of vehicle whose drivers use Millburn as a “cut through” to get to other destinations, usually to avoid Routes 24 and 78. As James Ribaudo, project manager with Arterial stated “… traffic is like water – it finds the easiest way to go. The Sub-committee’s goal is to reduce cut-through traffic making the downtown less congested while at the same time improving local vehicular circulation that better supports downtown businesses”.
The Arterial Team has proposed a series of moves to deal with the congestion in downtown Millburn. It emphasizes that these ideas must be implemented as a holistic approach and not piecemeal as has been attempted in the past. The first is to designate Old Short Hills Road where it turns into Main Street one way south between Essex Street and Millburn Avenue in an effort to reduce cut through traffic. The second move eliminates left hand turns from Essex Street onto Main Street to simplify the intersection and reduce vehicular/pedestrian conflicts. The Third move creates a new street adjacent to Town Hall that picks up the left hand turn traffic off of Essex Street that was eliminated at Main Street. The Fourth move turns Lackawanna Place one way going north between Millburn Ave and Essex Street. The final move makes Essex Street two-way between Lackawanna Place & Millburn Avenue to better facilitate traffic flow from the Train Station and parking garage.
Between July and October 2015 the consultants anticipate concepts being further developed and refined into a final schematic design. Initial construction is anticipated to begin in the summer of 2016.
Deputy Mayor Bourke stated that the cost of implementing the Complete Streets initiative will be paid in part by grants but the bulk of the cost will be paid from bonds – long term capital that Millburn can afford because two items in its budget will come off the books in 2016 or 2017. The two items are the Paper Mill Playhouse and the former Rimback Storage Facility. Bourke feels that the new traffic plan will greatly improve the downtown without costing taxpayers any extra money.