Novel coronavirus pandemic may delay the long-awaited installation of flashing crosswalks in Metuchen

The novel coronavirus pandemic may delay what would have been a victory in moving the long-awaited federal Safe Routes to Schools grant forward for the installation of flashing crosswalks at five locations in the borough.PHOTO BY KATHY CHANG/STAFF
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The novel coronavirus pandemic may delay what would have been a victory in moving the long-awaited federal Safe Routes to Schools grant forward for the installation of flashing crosswalks at five locations in the borough.PHOTO BY KATHY CHANG/STAFF

METUCHEN – The novel coronavirus pandemic may delay what would have been a victory in moving the long-awaited federal Safe Routes to Schools grant forward.

The Metuchen Borough Council, at a meeting on March 9, approved a resolution authorizing the award of a construction contract in the amount not to exceed $483,325.40 to JC Contracting Inc., Rahway, for the installation of flashing crosswalks at five locations in the borough – Grove Avenue and Christol Street, Main and High streets, Main Street and Brunswick Avenue, Central Avenue and Liberty Street, and Route 27 and Oak Avenue.

As of March 22, Borough Administrator Melissa Perlistein said it’s “in process, but assuming will be delayed because of COVID-19 restrictions.”

The borough received four bids ranging from $483,325.40 to $634,960.58. JC Contracting Inc. came in at the lowest bid.

The borough reviewed the results of the bid opening along with the borough engineer’s estimate and determined it was necessary to request additional funding for the project. The borough requested additional funding from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) through a letter on Jan. 27.

DOT, through correspondence, advised the borough its request for additional funding in the amount of $145,864.40 had been granted on March 4. The total amount of funding for the project with the additional funding increased to $458,325.40.

Perilstein said the pedestrian safety improvements have been a component of the borough’s efforts to improve pedestrian safety in the borough and date back to 2015 when the borough applied for the Safe Routes to Schools grant. The Traffic and Transportation Committee identified the five locations as the most critical locations for the installation of the flashing crosswalks.

Since the grant involved federal funds, the process has been delayed and has been subject to numerous bureaucratic reviews and authorizations. And on March 9, the borough finally reached the point of awarding the contract for installation.

Mayor Jonathan Busch said it was due to former Borough Administrator Jay Muldoon’s “perseverance and impatience” with bureaucracy working with DOT to obtain its authorization to award the contract.

The mayor joked federal and state officials waited for Muldoon to leave office to let the borough move forward with the project. Councilman Todd Pagel further joked they should have had Muldoon leave office earlier.

Muldoon, who transitioned from borough administrator on March 2 to the borough’s director of special projects, will continue to manage the process through completion.

Now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Muldoon and borough officials may have to wait indefinitely for the flashing crosswalks.

Perilstein said she will keep the public updated.