Pedestrian Safety, Transit Access in Spotlight as Summit Council Approves NJDOT-Related Grant Applications; Mayor Says Morris Ave. Bridge Project Likely to Stretch Into 2018

Grant funds would be directed at improving the safety of pedestrian traffic to / from the train station from adjacent parking lots, such as the intersection of Franklin Pl., Union Pl. and Summit Ave. Credits: City of Summit

SUMMIT, NJ - Improved pedestrian access from the Village Green to and from the Summit Train Station, and safety measures on streets and other facilities in the vicinity of the station, are targets of two New Jersey Department of Transportation grants the City will be applying for, in light of two resolutions approved at the first Summit Common Council regular meeting of 2017.

Under the first of the grants, announced by Council public works chairman Richard Sun, the City -- as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Transit Village Program -- will seek to fund the “Village Green Pedestrian Safety Project.” 

The project would include installation of bicycle parking and storage on the north quadrants of the area, wayfinding signs within the Village Green, as well as re-alignment and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) upgrades to the pathways on the southern quadrants. It also would include lighting and beautification elements on the southern quadrants, installation and creation of moped parking within a quarter-mile of the train station, and upgrades to the traffic signal at the intersection of Maple and Broad Streets.

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Sun added that the second grant would seek funding for the “Pedestrian Transit Access Project,” which is aimed at improving the safety of pedestrians who travel to and from the train station from the City’s commuter parking lots. These include the intersections of Franklin Place and Summit Avenue, Broad Street and Summit Avenue, Maple Street and Union Place and Maple Street and Railroad Avenue.

The project will include possible curb realignment, sidewalk replacement, installation of traffic markings and signage, new or additional LED lighting, bollards and/or plantings, inlaid warning systems and high visibility crosswalks.

In early November of 2016, a 48 year-old Springfield man was struck by a New Jersey Transit bus and critically injured as he crossed Summit Avenue at Union Place during the morning commute.

According a a memorandum on the project by City engineer Aaron Schrager, “these are all high volume intersections for both pedestrians and vehicles and the projects will focus on methods to enhance safety at these key locations.”

On another infrastructure matter that affects Hilltop City traffic, Radest said relocation of the city sewer line over the Morris Avenue Bridge -- spanning the New Jersey Transit tracks -- is expected to be completed next week, and New Jersey Transit estimates the bridge reconstruction project will be finished in the spring of 2018.

The original estimate for the project, which began in August of 2015, was for the effort to be completed in 18 months, or roughly March of 2017. The latest update from Radest indicates the project may now take a full year longer than originally planned.

Also at the meeting, Council approved consulting engineering services with Petry Traffic, LLC, Boswell Engineering and Neglia Engineering Associates to aid the City engineering department in providing traffic signal maintenance and timing, engineering design and inspection services and sanitary sewer consultation, respectively.

Responding to questions from Ward 2 Councilman Patrick Hurley, Community Services Director Paul Cascais said the City controls about 28 traffic-signaled intersections, of which it often assumes maintenance and control after upgrades are done by Union County.

Additionally, Cascais said, there are about three intersections in the City that are under Department of Transportation control.

Other consulting agreements approved at the meeting involved monitoring of possible pollutant areas of the Chatham Road pumping station, and consulting engineering services provided at the site by Mott MacDonald.

The two Chatham Road-related resolutions had a combined price tag of about $245,000.

Asked by Council president Michael McTernan about the costs of continued monitoring and follow up, Cascais said after the City and the consultants determine which of the tasks involved with the monitoring still must be completed, the consultants will present an action plan and there will be additional costs involved with items included on the cleanup action plan.

Council members also approved submission of grant applications for road projects on Pine Grove Avenue and Linden Place and Oakland Place.

On another item, business administrator Michael Rogers announced the planning board is scheduled to act on the City’s fair share housing plan at its January 23 meeting.

Rogers added a copy of the plan will be available on the City website.

McTernan noted that, after the plan is reviewed and approved by the planning board, it must come before Council for approval.

The Council also introduced an ordinance defining the position and duties of the city solicitor.

Law committee chairman David Naidu explained adoption of the ordinance would mean that the Council, when appointing a new solicitor, will be able to do so with a resolution rather than going through the ordinance process each time.

Also introduced was an ordinance vacating a drainage easement at the rear of a property at 115 Rotary Drive. The easement is being vacated at the homeowner’s request because it no longer is needed to serve the property, according to Sun.

On another matter, McTernan gave a brief history of taxation in the Hilltop City, noting that, in 1920, when there were 10,000 residents in Summit, property taxes amounted to about $40.20 per person which would translate into $485.12 per person today.

Last year’s per capita tax bite, according to the council president, amounted to about $6,300, meaning it is about 13 times higher than it was 100 years ago. Of course, he did note, Summit’s government provides a far wider diversity of services than it did 100 years ago.

In 1968, however, with 25,100 residents, the per capita tax bite was about $293, translating to about $2,032 per person today. This means the current tax bite is about three times what is was in 1968 relative to the inflation rate.

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