SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - In response to community concerns about pedestrian safety in the vicinity of South Mountain Elementary School (SMS), South Orange Board of Trustee member, and chair of the South Orange Safety Committee, Howard Levison discussed current issues, progress so far, and future plans for the area.
SMS is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of South Orange Ave. and Wyoming Ave., both heavily traveled Essex County roads. As they are Essex County roads, South Orange cannot change traffic light patterns, reduce speed limits, or even re-paint crosswalks without approval from Essex County, explained Levison.
Levison cited improvements to date such as the reconstruction of the “S” curves on South Orange Ave., which has helped to reduce the speed limit on South Orange Ave. from 40 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour, an initiative which Levison completed with Under-Sheriff Jim Spango.
Since the beginning of the school year in September, Levison has been at SMS evaluating traffic patterns and seeking solutions. One of the issues at the intersection of South Orange Ave. and Wyoming Ave. is that instead of using the two crosswalks, one to cross South Orange Ave. and one to cross Wyoming Ave., pedestrians tend to cross at an angle, going at a diagonal across the two streets, where there is not a crosswalk.
Since there is a period of time when all traffic is stopped at red lights at this intersection, Levison thinks this gives pedestrians a false feeling of safety as they cross diagonally. However, as there is no warning when the light changes from red to green and traffic resumes, pedestrians - who are sometimes children on the way to and from SMS - are in the middle of the street when vehicles begin proceeding through their green light, creating an unsafe situation, said Levison.
Another issue at the intersection is that west-bound traffic on Wyoming Ave. has arrows for both a right and left turn, and the right turn arrow stays green after the left turn arrow turns red, so pedestrians may be unaware when crossing that vehicles still have a green light and are in transit. Levison also observed that vehicles often speed-up to make the light, and a flashing sign has been installed in an attempt to have vehicles slow down in the intersection.
“We are very cognizant of the issues but are constrained in a number of ways. Government takes time and there are processes to follow particularly when there are multiple governments involved," said Levison, adding that another constraint is cost.
Levison stated that the community's issues have been heard, and are being addressed. "They just take time to accomplish," said Levison.