Millburn's Complete Streets Project Stymies Township Committee and Community

Phase 1 Update - Completed intersection with digitally added landscaping set to be installed in the spring. Credits: Arterial
Original intersection before Phase 1 work Credits: Arterial
Original Phase 2 Scope of Work Credits: Arterial
Proposed Phase 2A Scope of Work Credits: Arterial

MILLBURN, NJ - The Complete Streets project in Millburn continues to stymie and divide the community, and many residents came out on Tuesday night to the Township Committee meeting to hear the presentation on the new proposed Phase 2A. David Lustberg of Arterial's presentation had to wait, as Complete Streets dominated the night as committee reports got underway. 

Following a report on the ad hoc Complete Streets committee, Committeewoman Dianne Eglow presented two motions that bring the project to a standstill for work slated to begin on Millburn Avenue between Douglas and Spring Street. Eglow stated that "We were unable to come to any agreements as to where the design should move from here." and used it as a segway to introduce the first of two motions. The first motion instructs the firm overseeing the project to research the cost implications of a change order removing the planned work at the intersection at Millburn Avenue and Douglas Street that included demolition, narrowing of the street, paving and a redesign that called for hard stops rather than the current slip lanes. After some debate and clarifications from town attorney Christopher "Kit" Falcon, the committee members passed the motion with Deputy Mayor Jodi Rosenberg abstaining.  

Eglow's second motion arrests the initiation of planned Phase 1 work at the much-debated intersection until the committee, and other impacted entities, namely the Millburn Fire Department, consider the feasibility of the proposed work. Even with two amendments by Committeeman Sam Levy and Falcon, Committeeman Robert Tillotson, who also sits on the ad hoc Complete Street committee, was the lone dissenting vote as the second motion was approved. Tillotson commented "So while I agree with Ms. Eglow with respect to the concerns on Douglas and Millburn Avenue, I want to point out, I think there is a more appropriate way to talk about what we discussed. In light of not such a negative type manner, because we didn't discuss it in that manner, she discussed it in that manner." 

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Lustberg took the floor to outline the new Phase 2A plan but started with a recap of the Complete Streets model and updates on the completed work from Phase 1. Many of the images focused on the aesthetic features that double as safety improvements providing buffers for pedestrians to live traffic lanes, shortened crossings and wider sidewalks. 

The presentation also looked to reassure community members and committee concerns are not falling on deaf ears with Arterial. Lustberg stated "We recognize there are a lot of concerns and we expect that. This is a very big change. What we started doing with the ad hoc committee is we have started a tracking sheet for an issues or concerns that come up. We are logging all those concerns and creating action items for those concerns. Everything is being heard and tracked and actively addressed."

The original Phase 2 called for bidding on the phase in its entirety that included Essex Street from the new road next to Town Hall down to Wyoming Avenue and Millburn Avenue from Main Street to Wyoming Avenue inclusive of Lackawanna Place and Holmes Street.  The revised plans dubbed Phase 2A limit the scope of work to Holmes Street up to Essex Street and down to Wyoming Avenue to work on issues of pedestrian accessibility to the train station, a potential drop off lane for commuters and a clear gateway into the downtown area for drivers. "It takes the construction and moves it out of downtown for the next phase." Lustberg concluded that this reworked Phase 2A "gives the committee and the community ample time to provide input and discuss these improvements and the best way to move forward."

Lustberg's log of residents concerns got longer as the meeting moved into public comments. Merchants from the community came out to reiterate the negative impact the Complete Streets construction has had on their businesses. Andrew Morgan of Millburn Deli reported that since July his business has seen a 40% decline in sales and forced a reduction in staff. Robert Engel of Rudder Realty went further calling for a one-year suspension of Phase 2. He also questioned why representatives from the merchants and citizens weren't part of the ad hoc committee.  Residents additionally questioned the timing of traffic lights, issues with flexible parking and ongoing crosswalk problems. Lustberg answered some of the concerns on the spot, but some were noted for further inquiry.

Jennifer Duckworth, representing Bike & Walk Millburn, answered the committee's call for recommendations to help improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The recommendations call for publication of the minutes of the ad hoc committee, monthly crash data broken down by category, location and result and speed data.  Speed limit recommendations increased signage and calls for increased communication with the Board of Education regarding school traffic concerns rounded out the list. 

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