Grove Avenue in Metuchen eyed for bicycle and pedestrian safety

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BY KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

METUCHEN — Grove Avenue was placed at the top of a priority list that was put together by members of the borough’s Traffic and Transportation Committee as they focus on efforts to make the roadway friendly for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

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Amboy, Lake and Middlesex avenues followed closely behind.

Committee member Jason Delia told the Borough Council at a meeting on March 20 that he and his fellow members took in the findings and suggestions made by RBA Group, a Parsippany-based engineering firm.

In 2016, Metuchen was selected and participated in the local Pedestrian Biking assistance program organized by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT).

Michael Dannemiller, who is from the RBA Group, had presented its findings to the council at a meeting in December off 2016. He had said they are consultants for the NJDOT that do bike, pedestrian and traffic calming enhancements offering technical assistance contracts to municipalities who request them.

“Our impression of [RBA’s] plan was it was a very good starting point,” said Delia. “They were able to identify points where people would want to travel to and get to place to place. They made good suggestions and alternative [routes] for bicycling.”

Delia said they had hoped the plan had more suggestions for pedestrians.

“The plan identified a lot of sidewalk improvements, which were nice, but they weren’t necessary in the same corridor,” he said. “We would have liked [the report] to focus more on crosswalks, bump outs and things of that nature that are missing throughout town.”

In 2015, the borough reduced the speed limit on Grove Avenue from 35 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.

“The committee knew that was just the first step for Grove Avenue,” he said. “Another step was increased enforcement on the roadway. Now we have the opportunity to [provide] engineering and take the roadway and make it more amiable to cyclists.”

Delia said Grove Avenue has many connections including Route 27, Route 660 (Woodbridge Avenue) and Route 1.

“[Metuchen] High School, [Neve Shalom] synagogue and the baseball and softball fields are along the roadway,” he said.

As of right now, Delia said Grove Avenue is not designed as a 25 mile per hour roadway.

“It is still too wide in some places,” he said. “Some [suggestions] are to add bike lanes, which will do wonders in reducing the speed [of motorists] and it is an effective way to reduce the width of that roadway. It will make you want to drive 25 miles per hour.”

Delia said other considerations are to add bump outs at all crosswalks along the roadway.

“Grove Avenue is residential, that is why we wanted to reduce the speed limit,” he said. “Also if we pursue bike lanes, we want to be cognizant of the residents.”

Neve Shalom, at high usage times, could create a problem with the potential bike lanes. Delia said a suggestion would be to put a sharrow — shared-lane — in place.

The second top roadway on the committee’s priority list is county road Amboy Avenue, which has connections to Route 1, Main Street and Route 27.

“The roadway also has Moss Elementary [School], access to the [Middlesex County] Greenway and businesses,” said Delia. “It is a high volume roadway of 35 miles per hour. It’s not necessarily safe to bike on the county road.”

Delia said they would like to reduce the speed on the roadway to 25 miles per hour noting there might be a need for coordination since it is a county road.

Also, he said if bike lanes were to be put on the roadway, they would need to discuss how to deal with the metered parking spaces at the intersection of Main Street and Amboy Avenue.

Delia said they can look at implementing green bike boxes at the intersection for bicyclists.

Lake Avenue came in third on the priority list.

“The [RBA] report split [the roadway] into two sections from the Middlesex [Avenue] to Essex [Avenue] portion that is Route 27 and the Essex to Metuchen [Municipal] Pool,” said Delia. “The first section [goes through] all the new developments. It’s an area we expect to have pedestrians, shoppers and residents.”

Delia said like Amboy Avenue, they can look at implementing green bike boxes at intersections.

“Lake [Avenue] to the Metuchen Pool is a very busy southern part of the town with Edgar [Middle School], the pool and the [Metuchen] YMCA,” he said. “It is a residential [area].”

Middlesex Avenue (Route 27), a state roadway, came in fourth on the committee’s priority list.

“It is a high volume roadway and it does not feel safe for a cyclist,” he said. “There are a lot of businesses on Middlesex Avenue and connects down to Main Street. We want residents to be able to cycle into [the downtown] and be a roadway for all types of transportation not just cars.”

Delia said the committee believes that adding bike lines; green bike boxes and bump outs will be beneficial to the roadway.

Mayor Peter Cammarano said the timing of the committee’s suggestions come at a pretty good time since the county is repaving Amboy Avenue.

“It gives us the possible ability to do our improvements and next year they are repaving Route 27,” he said.

Councilman Jay Muldoon said in the past five years, many studies have been conducted to make it safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

He said a livability team, made up of volunteers, has formed, which has grown out of the Metuchen YMCA’s effort to start a walking group.

“The thought is for the livability team to take the studies and boil them down and come up with a comprehensive set of recommendations and priorities to help move the process forward,” he said adding that part of the frustration he has is turning all the plans into action now.

Councilwoman Dorothy Rassmussen said she thinks the committee’s suggestions are great.

“In addition, success is changing people’s attitudes [to make the borough streets safer],” she said. “We can put up all bike boxes, curb cut outs and all, but we need to change people’s attitudes. There needs to be an effort trying an educational portion along with painting and curb cut outs.”

James Galeota, chair of the Traffic and Transportation committee, said education is a key component to the three “E’s” of the process, which also includes engineering and enforcement.

“Enforcement tends to change attitudes and helps create pedestrian safety in the town,” he said.

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