by John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – Should they stay or should they go?
That will be the question posed when the borough council holds a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 9 about the temporary traffic lights on Branch Avenue.
The 7 p.m. meeting, which will be held at Markham Place School, is intended to allow the public to weigh in on whether the two sets of lights on Branch Avenue at the Rumson Road and White Road intersections should be made permanent. The Monmouth County Engineering Department had the lights installed on the heavily traveled Branch Avenue to offset the added traffic the roadway was expected to have with the lengthy bridge replacement project on Seven Bridges Road. When county engineer Joseph Ettore appeared at a borough council meeting in May 2012, prior to the start of the Seven Bridges Road project, numerous area residents told him they were opposed to the idea of the lights. At that time, some who lived in the area said they predicted traffic would become increasingly snarled and there would likely be added issues of noise and pollution. Many in attendance said they feared the lights wouldn’t be taken down after the bridge was replaced.
The Seven Bridges Road project initially was intended to take about seven months. The bridge replacement project took much longer than anticipated, in no small part due to the impact Super Storm Sandy had on the area.
The bridge was completed by late summer and county officials decided to leave the Branch Avenue lights past the project completion to get an overall picture of the traffic situation in the area, said Laura Kirkpatrick, Monmouth County public information officer.
“What I hear is everything from they should be removed immediately to they should never be removed,” Mayor Robert C. Neff Jr. said, “which is the reason for this meeting.”
In May 2012 Ettore told residents that it was the county’s opinion that a traffic light had been needed on Branch Avenue for the last 20 years.
But Neff stressed, “I don’t think anybody has prejudged this,” and that the council would remain open-minded about the issue.
Police Chief Daniel Shaffery said the department’s traffic safety officer, Capt. Gary LaBruno, is compiling and analyzing the data for those intersections. “No one in the police department has formed an opinion at this time,” Shaffery said.
Someone who has certainly formed an opinion is Branch Avenue homeowner Jennifer Pardee.
“Nobody in the neighborhood likes the lights,” she said. “It doesn’t help and it definitely hurts our quality of life.
“There’s garbage everywhere” with drivers taking the opportunity at the stoplight to get rid of trash and empty ashtrays. There is also constant horn honking and exhaust, she said. “Our quality of life has gone into the tank.”
Kirkpatrick said, “They’re county intersections; they’re county roads,” and the decision will eventually be made on the county level.
But, she qualified that assessment by adding, “In many cases we work with the community to accomplish their needs and to address their concerns. I think that is the case in this situation.”
That is how Neff sees the situation as well. “I think they give Little Silver’s view pretty strong weight,” he said.
Along with the governing body and borough police, a county representative will be on hand at the Dec. 9 meeting, Neff said.