Allentown council rescinds support for traffic light at South Main and High streets

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ALLENTOWN — The members of the Allentown Borough Council have rescinded their previous documented support for the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of South Main and High streets.

On Dec. 7, council members voted 5-1 to pass a resolution supporting a Monmouth County plan to construct a traffic light at the intersection.

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Six months later that resolution of support has been rescinded.

During a meeting on June 14, council members voted 5-0 to rescind the Dec. 7 resolution which supported the installation of a context sensitive traffic signal at South Main Street (Monmouth County Route 524) and High Street (Monmouth County Route 539).

The council’s June 14 resolution states that since the previous vote was taken on Dec. 7, “the borough has requested additional traffic studies on the … intersection to (provide) for a more thorough review of the options available to Monmouth County” and that since December, “Monmouth County has begun working directly with the Upper Freehold Regional School District to identify measures available to the school district that may prevent the need of a traffic light in this location.”

Voting “yes” on the June 14 resolution were Borough Council President John A. Elder III, Councilman Dan Payson, Councilman Michael Drennan, Councilwoman Martha Johnson and Councilwoman Nikki Darling. Councilwoman Erica DeKranes was absent from the meeting.

On Dec. 7, Elder, Drennan, Payson, Johnson and DeKranes voted “yes” on the resolution to support the traffic signal. Councilman Robert Strovinsky voted “no” and expressed several concerns regarding a traffic signal. Strovinsky’s term ended on Dec. 31.

Since December, residents of South Main and High streets had expressed concern regarding the impact a traffic signal at the intersection would have on their daily lives.

After the five council members voted unanimously to rescind the Dec. 7 resolution, resident Regina Finn thanked municipal officials “for being responsive to the community. From day 1, this (situation) has been a school district issue, not a town issue.”

Mayor Thomas Fritts said, “The school district has avoided this issue for years. They need to fix the problem.”

Finn said comments that had been posted on Facebook led parents to address the issue regarding school traffic with the superintendent of schools and the Board of Education.

Wil Borkowski, who is one of Allentown’s two representatives on the school board, said the root cause of the problem is seniors driving to Allentown High School in the morning.

The high school is on High Street and shares a campus with the Newell Elementary School.

Resident John Fabiano called the council’s action to rescind the December resolution “a wise decision.” He said the region of Monmouth County that includes Allentown and Upper Freehold Township needs “a common sense road network.”

Fritts said he appreciated the council members listening to the residents and to the county officials who had addressed the situation. The mayor said residents raised significant issues with the county’s plan for the traffic signal. Fritts thanked the council members for passing the June 14 resolution.

In recent weeks, the mayor has said a traffic committee supported by the school district is examining the traffic issues at its High Street campus and is seeking a solution to the problems.

Allentown officials have said that at certain times of the day, significant traffic backups occur at the intersection of South Main and High streets. The situation is partially attributed to the fact that the campus containing the high school and the elementary school is not far from the intersection.

Officials acknowledged that at other times of the day there is not a traffic backup at the intersection and that a traffic signal could cause motorists to have to wait for a green signal which is not the case at present with an intersection that is controlled by a stop sign on High Street.

Borough Engineer Carmela Roberts has said delays at the intersection at some times of the day can reach 300 seconds (five minutes) and that the intersection operates at an F level of service, which Roberts said is the worst level of service on a scale of A to F.

A traffic signal could reduce the wait at the most congested times of the day from 300 seconds to about 35 seconds, she said.

Fritts has called the current situation at the intersection “a real hazard.”

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