By John Burton
RED BANK – A busy west side intersection is slated for a quarter-million dollar safety upgrade project.
The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority has approved a $225,000 project for the Drs. James Parker Boulevard and Shrewsbury Avenue intersection to improve pedestrian and traffic safety and for overall operations.
The improvements to the location will include replacing the fixed-time traffic light with a modern signal with vehicle detection capabilities, a battery backup system, 12-inch LED signal lights and a push button activated pedestrian countdown signal, said David Behrend, a spokesman for the transportation planning authority. There also will be higher visibility crosswalks through the intersection; enhanced pavement markings, signs and striping; and a handicap accessible curb ramp.
The project, awarded through a competitive application process, was submitted by Monmouth County officials, Behrend said.
Shrewsbury Avenue is a county thoroughfare, and a busy one, with some drivers using it as an alternative to Maple Avenue, the north-south connection to state Route 35 through the borough. The area, a patchwork of retail, commercial and residential, also has a significant number of residents who walk or ride bicycles to get around town.
County officials had applied for the money, “so they take this as a priority,” Behrend said. “We look at the data and see if there is a concern and an issue there,” Behrend said.
“We feel it is a spot that is in need of this work,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Thomas Arnone, who oversees the county’s public works and engineering departments.
Arnone pointed to the heavy foot and bicycle traffic, on top of the high volume of vehicles that make its way through the area. “This project will modernize the intersection and make it much safer for all travelers,” Arnone said in a prepared release.
County engineers conducted a traffic study and determined the location was a priority for this type of project, Arnone said. The authority looks at the criteria and makes a final determination as to which projects to fund.
The project is one of seven the authority is scheduled to fund for fiscal year 2013 in the 13 counties it covers. The federal money will be allocated through the authority’s Local Safety Program. This is the only project approved for the year in Monmouth County, Behrend said.
Amy Goldsmith, a Locust Avenue resident who is president of the advocacy organization West Side Community Group, said in an email response, “While it is great that improvements are being made at the busy intersection,” there is at least a traffic light there.
Farther north on Shrewsbury Avenue are other busy corners, such as the one in front of the River Street Commons senior housing facility, Catherine Street; in front of the borough’s senior center; and at Locust and Chestnut streets, where there are no lights and no traffic calming measures or even sufficient pedestrian crosswalk enforcement, she said.
“We have been calling for remedies at these intersections for over 15 years,” Goldsmith said.