Improvements are expected on Main Street using grant from NJTPA

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METUCHEN — On average, the Metuchen Police Department responds to help two to three trucks per week back out of the Main Street railroad bridge when drivers have gone too far and cannot go under the bridge, according to Police Lt. Arthur Flaherty.

As for trucks striking the bridge, which has an 11-foot, 2-inch clearance, the department has seen 54 strikes over a four-year period, which translates into one strike a month, he said.

To help with the ongoing problem that has plagued the borough for years, the borough is in receipt of a $9.3 million grant from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) to the County of Middlesex, which borough officials announced on Jan. 23.

The grant for the project is through the NJTPA’s fiscal year 2017-18 local safety program, which is federally funded, utilizing highway safety improvement program funds.

The grant includes funding for design, construction and construction inspection services.

The funds will be used to support Metuchen’s efforts to improve public safety, pedestrian safety, traffic signals and eliminate trucks from striking the Main Street railroad bridge, which is overseen by Amtrak, NJ Transit, the county and the borough.

The approved project will cover a one mile stretch of Main Street and is one of 14 throughout the state, but the only one approved in Middlesex County.

Improvements will include installation of a new traffic signal at Main Street and Woodbridge Avenue, traffic signal upgrades at Amboy Avenue and New Street/Hillside avenues, pedestrian countdown signals, a pedestrian flashing beacon at the intersection of Talmadge Avenue, high visibility crosswalks, sidewalk improvements and an over-height vehicle detector system at the railroad overpass.

Main Street, also known as Route 531, serves as the borough’s downtown commercial business area. It is one of the main arteries feeding traffic in and out of the borough. The corridor sees significant pedestrian traffic and includes a NJ Transit rail station.

The corridor is ranked 13th on the NJTPA’s list of high-crash pedestrian corridors in the county. The intersection of Main Street and Amboy Avenue is ranked ninth on the list of high-crash pedestrian intersections in the county.

There is also a significant problem with vehicles striking the rail bridge, which carries Amtrak and NJ Transit trains.

More information on the requisite process, public hearings and timelines will be discussed as soon as more information is available to the borough

“This will be an incredible investment for the borough as it will significantly boost our efforts to enhance our downtown and increase pedestrian safety,” Mayor Jonathan Busch said. “As this grant is funded by federal dollars, it is likely to take some time before any of the projects can begin.”

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.