Left-Hand Turns Dominate New Providence Planning Board Hearing

Credits: TAP Staff

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Depending on the time of day or day of the week, South St. between Springfield Ave. and Central Ave. can be a nightmare for any motorists attempting a left-hand turn.

In the second of what easily promises to be four or five hearings, property owner Seyfo Hawi Realty continued to seek approval to construct a 7 – Eleven store on part of an existing parking lot separating Provident Bank from Barth’s Market located on the west side of South St.

Traffic issues and left-hand turns easily dominated the evening’s proceedings as several board members seemed puzzled or skeptical during more than two hours of testimony presented by Nicholas Verderese, a traffic consultant retained by the applicant.

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Verderese said his firm had conducted visual site studies and traffic counts on three different occasions in January of this year.

Using data generated by national statistical standards (Institute of Transportation Engineers) for convenience stores, Verderese projected the proposed store would generate 101 entering and exiting trips during a weekday peak period of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.  The afternoon would generate 30 trips from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.  The Saturday peak from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. would generate 116 visits.

The traffic engineer said access only to the property would be the existing entrance that would be relocated a short distance to the south.  An existing exit south of Provident Bank next to the drive-through tellers would remain.

However, an additional two-lane exit to South St. will be constructed in the middle of the property.  One lane will be for left-hand turns only, the other for right turns.

Verderese turned his attention to a “gap” analysis he conducted which allows for 7.5 seconds for a motorist to safely and efficiently make a left-turn.  He said it wasn’t uncommon to see five or six vehicles bunched together which he called a “platoon” effect.  They’re usually followed by a large gap allowing the necessary 7.5 seconds.

Council member Armand Galluccio pointed out the difficulty of making left-hand turns from Gales Drive in the early morning saying it was very difficult and dangerous.

“You can have all the traffic studies you want, but it won’t be safe,” Galluccio said.

Another outspoken doubter of the traffic engineer’s report was Board Member Dan Henn who is a borough police officer well aware of South St. traffic.

Asked for comments from the Planning Board, Police Chief Anthony Buccelli and Borough Administrator Doug Marvin provided written responses reviewed by The Alternative Press.

“This will have a significant impact on the entering and exiting traffic of the Village Shopping Center, N. P. Fuel and the South St. Market,” Buccelli wrote.  He added a traffic light may be needed to avoid motorist confusion.

Marvin, the borough’s previous Police Chief, also expressed concern with the traffic impact in left-turn movements from the proposed site.

John Jahr, a traffic engineering expert retained by the Planning Board, described the traffic situation as very complicated and urged the applicant to conduct a simulation study.

The hearing ended shortly after 11 p.m. and the next meeting has been scheduled for June 4 when Verderese will continue his testimony and the board and public will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Earlier in the evening, the applicant offered new testimony by architect Charles Dietz who testified at the first hearing in April.  At that time, revised plans were presented with the rear of refrigeration units exposed in windows facing South St. 

The windows would be non-transparent giving the appearance of tinted glass seen in many office buildings.  He said pedestrians wouldn’t notice the difference during the day but it would become readily apparent at night with the absence of interior light.

Many board members took issue with the proposal citing security issues.  Based upon that response, the applicant has reconfigured the inside of the store to place the refrigerated units against the north wall eliminating the need for non-transparent windows.

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