Somerville Awarded $670,000 for Veterans Memorial Drive East Traffic Improvements

The intersection of Veterans Memorial Drive East and Hamilton Street is at the bottom of this aerial view, which shows VMD East stretching towards South Bridge Street and the new Cobalt Apartments. Credits: Courtesy Weiss Properties
A $670,000 federal grant will help Somerville enhance safety at the intersection of Veterans Memorial Drive East and Hamilton Street. Credits: Rod Hirsch/Tapinto file photo
A separate project in Somerville now under way will improve pedestrian safety along Veterans Memorial Drive West. Credits: Rod Hirsch
The newly-constructed Cobalt Apartments at 70 Veterans Memorial Drive East. Credits: Rod Hirsch

TRENTON, NJ – Somerset County has been awarded a $670,000 grant through the federal Safe Routes to School program to fund a traffic safety improvement project in Somerville on Veterans Memorial Drive East.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation, in partnership with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority administers the grant program; a total of nearly $4.1 million was awarded to 11 projects in eight New Jersey counties through the SRTS program.

Somerville had applied for the grant last year.

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“We’ve made a commitment to improve pedestrian safety borough-wide, and this is part of that commitment,” said Mayor Brian Gallagher.

The project will extend from South Bridge Street east towards the East Main Street intersection. Planned improvements include replacement of the traffic light at the intersection of Hamilton Street; the new signal will include left-turn arrows in keeping with the three-lane road section planned for the entire length of Veterans Memorial Drive East.

New sidewalks and handicap ramps will be constructed in compliance with the American Disabilities Act regulations.

Veterans Memorial Drive East is part of the “walking school bus route” used by students living around Southside Avenue and the Lauren Gardens apartments that attend Van Derveer School and the Middle School. More students may come from the newly constructed Cobalt Apartments and a second apartment development planned for Veterans Memorial Drive East.

Gallagher expects it will be several months before specifications for the project are ready to be put out for bid.

“We’ll see how far the money takes us,” Gallagher said.

A resolution approved by the Borough Council in conjunction with the grant application reads:

“The project will help to continue and improve the promotion and encouragement of pedestrian and bicycle access and safety for the school children, residents and commercial district.”

A second pedestrian safety improvement project began this week on Veterans Memorial Drive West. The six-week project includes installation of raised pedestrian center medians, crosswalk enhancements and safety signals between South Bridge Street and Mountain Avenue.

The SRTS program is a federally funded reimbursement program that was established in 2005 to increase pedestrian safety awareness among motorists and schoolchildren.  

“Safety is a key component of New Jersey’s transportation network, including pedestrian and bicycling accommodations,” NJDOT Commissioner Richard T. Hammer said. “These grants will help our local communities improve sidewalks and crosswalks so children may safely walk or bike to school.”

The remaining 10 grants in the NJTPA region, totaling $3.409 million, will be distributed as follows: 

Bergen County

·       Ridgewood Safe Routes to School in Ridgewood Village for $400,000

·       Bike and Pedestrian Safety Infrastructure Upgrades in Rutherford for $368,000

Hunterdon County

·       Safe Routes to School Harrison Street and Second Street in Frenchtown for $472,000

Middlesex County

·       Infrastructure and Intersection Improvements and ADA Compliance in Highland Park for $216,000

Morris County

·       Shunpike Road Sidewalk – Falmouth Road to Pine Street in Chatham for $374,000

·       Pedestrian/Bike Safety Improvements in Netcong for $243,000

Ocean County

·       Clayton Avenue Sidewalk Construction in Bay Head for $190,000

Union County

·       Various Sidewalk Improvements in New Providence for $462,000

·       Plainfield Safe Routes to School Improvements in Plainfield for $304,000

Warren County

·       Safe Routes to School Improvements in Lopatcong for $380,000

The Safe Routes to School program was created to encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bike to school.

The goal is to make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age; and to implement projects that will improve safety, and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools, Hammer added.

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