MAPLEWOOD, NJ -- About 80 people attended the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Summit on Monday night, Oct. 24, at The Woodland in Maplewood. Maplewood Mayor Victor De Luca, Township Engineer Paul Kittner, Public Works Director Calvin Bell, and Police Chief Robert Cimino all spoke, followed by a question and answer period with the audience. Also attending the summit were Maplewood Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams and Township Committee member Ian Grodman.
De Luca opened the meeting, highlighting that Maplewood is a walking town, and stating "we need to focus more energy on pedestrian safety." De Luca said that Maplewood is working hard to reduce "pedestrian crashes," adding that they shouldn't be called accidents, "because they're not accidents. They're crashes."
The top five pedestrian crash streets were identified, in order, as Springfield Ave., Valley St., Prospect St., Maplewood Ave., and Boyden Ave. De Luca continued, "we have a problem here in Maplewood and we want to resolve it."
De Luca also explained that Maplewood is taking a "three legged stool" approach to pedestrian safety, which is practice, enforcement, and engineering design.
Kittner discussed the engineering design aspect of the pedestrian safety effort, and said the town has made progress in traffic calming initiatives. Kittner explained that Maplewood, in comparison to other towns, takes a "very aggressive approach to its traffic calming" measures.
Kittner also reviewed for the audience the 2007 Regional Study that looked at problematic intersections in Maplewood, and suggested possible solutions such as curb bump outs, speed bumps, raised intersections (which make it easier for pedestrians to cross busy intersections), and reducing speed limits on those roads. Maplewood continues to implement traffic calming polices from that report, stated Kittner.
Kittner also discussed adding shoulder and crosswalk striping throughout Maplewood, which he said is the most cost-effective way to achieve traffic calming.
Future plans for pedestrian safety include the redesign of the Maplewood Ave. and Baker St. intersection, which Kittner described as "very tough" currently. Kittner also mentioned that Valley St., which is a county road, has been identified as another area where improvements could be made for pedestrian safety.
Six crosswalks are also planned for Wyoming Ave. The crosswalks would be at the intersections at Clinton Ave., Ridgewood Terr., Curtiss Pl., Durand Rd., Claremont Ave., and Collingwood Rd.
Bell addressed the audience and provided information about some of the many things the Department of Public Works (DPW) does, including replacing old and worn-out signs, installing new signs, and pruning trees that obstruct intersections and signs.
Upcoming DPW projects include installing signs that state no parking within 50 feet of the curb (which should improve visibility), and painting curbs yellow . This project should be hopefully completed by the end of the year, based on weather.
Bell stated that he hopes by the summer of 2017 Maplewood will purchase a striping machine so that the DPW will have the ability to repair and add stripped areas wherever a potential safety concern is identified.
Residents can reach out directly to the DPW with issues such as broken street lights or traffic lights, with Bell noting, "we're always here to help." Bell also thanked the police and fire departments, adding "we are all a team."
Last to speak before the question and answer period was Cimino, who began by explaining that the police are concerned with all areas of safety, offering residents a "complete package of police services," which includes attention to traffic safety, as well as other areas such as criminal matters and ordinance enforcement.
Cimino noted that the police work with the schools to create safe routes to and from school. Cimino also stated that Maplewood police plan to begin "pedestrian decoy enforcement," in which motorists will be ticketed for failure to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Cimino added that yielding to pedestrians comprises two parts: first, the driver is required to stop, and second, the pedestrian must not walk out in front of a car when the driver is unable to stop in time.
In 2015, Maplewood police made about 4,000 traffic stops, of which more than 2,000 were for spending, said Cimino. About 60 tickets were issued for motorists who were using a mobile phone while driving.
After the speakers, there was an audience question and answer session that covered a variety of issues and concerns, with participants focusing on specific streets and intersections which they identified as being particularly hazardous. Some concerns mentioned included lack of lighting on Prospect Ave., excessive speeding on Van Ness Terr. and South Pierson Rd., crossing guards not being at their posts, and the lack of safe places for bicyclists to ride in town.
While Maplewood is working hard to improve pedestrian safety, Cimino noted that the rate of pedestrian accidents in Maplewood is lower than the New Jersey average.