By John Burton
RED BANK – Municipal officials and a state legislator are hoping that bringing a long-standing traffic safety issue to the attention of state Department of Transportation (DOT) representatives will result in corrective measures.
State Senator Jennifer Beck, R-11, Mayor Pasquale Menna, Police Chief Stephen McCarthy and other local officials met with DOT Assistant Commissioner Anthony Attanasio and others from the DOT in April to review and talk about possible options for a crosswalk located on Riverside Avenue, which doubles as Route 35.
Local officials are concerned about the safety of pedestrians crossing at the crosswalk, which is on Riverside Avenue in the vicinity of the K. Hovnanian Homes’ headquarters and near the vest-pocket, triangular-shaped Veterans Park on the heavily traveled four-lane road.
“We need better, safer pedestrian walkways,” said Beck, whose district includes the borough, where she is a resident.
The Atrium at Navesink Harbor, an age-restricted residential community, which, according to its executive director, David Johnson, has 116 residents, also is located nearby on Riverside Avenue.
The crosswalk does not have any traffic signal. What concerns officials and police is that drivers traveling north on Route 35 are unaware of the crosswalk, putting pedestrians at potential risk.
The road is “impossible to cross,” Menna said. “That’s a very dangerous crosswalk.”
The DOT engineered some improvements to roadways in the area about a decade ago when it worked to improve traffic flow by reconfiguring the Maple Avenue/West Front Street intersection, Menna recalled.
However, what happens is that drivers on Maple Avenue who turn left onto Riverside Avenue, are often unaware of the crosswalk, located close to the intersection and that puts pedestrians in danger, Police Captain Darren McConnell said.
“It’s almost (a) blind (spot), until you’re right around the corner,” and on top of the crosswalk, McConnell said.
There haven’t been any traffic or pedestrian incidents at that location, “but there is the potential for one,” he said.
A traffic fatality occurred two years ago when a pedestrian looked to cross at West Front Street and Maple Avenue and was struck by a vehicle, McConnell said.
“It is a crazy and dangerous crosswalk area,” Beck said.
DOT officials have told Beck they are looking to eliminate crosswalks where there isn’t a corresponding traffic light or sign, “because they’re such a hazard,” Beck said.
Menna would like the DOT to place traffic calming devices similar to the ones the Monmouth County engineer installed on East Front Street, near Riverview Medical Center. They include a flashing light, additional road striping and signs. The mayor also would like to see the speed limit reduced and the timing of the pedestrian crossing signal at Maple Avenue/West Front Street increased to give pedestrians more time.
“What I’d like to see and what they’ll do are two different things,” he said.
Stephen Schapiro, a DOT spokesman, said the department is studying the situation and will take the community’s concerns into consideration.
The Atrium’s residents are not feeling unsafe “in any way, shape or form,” Johnson said, “but they still have concerns about the crosswalks, most especially about the Maple Avenue intersection,” he said. “It scares me and I can move faster than my residents can.”