Life can be pretty frustrating on Tower Hill Avenue near Harding Road.
Cars heading west and downhill on Harding often turn onto Tower Hill virtually on two wheels, and then barrel down the narrow street of tidy homes to the stop sign at Spring Street.
It’s not just a matter of all the side mirrors that have been clipped off their cars over the years, residents say. Pedestrians and people entering or leaving vehicles parked on the street must take their chances with the hilltop speed demons, who use the maneuver to avoid a series of traffic lights beginning at Harding Road and Spring Street.
Homeowner Val DeFazio has been asking the borough to address the problem for nearly three years. “If they wanted to put up a parking garage, I bet it wouldn’t take three years,” he quips.
Now, though it may still be months away from taking effect, a solution is very much in the works, town and Monmouth County officials say.
“The idea is to cut off the cut-through traffic, which is a huge number of vehicles,” says Borough Engineer Richard Kosenski.
Under a proposed traffic scheme, motorists heading west on Harding, a county road, will be barred from making the left onto Tower Hill. Double yellow center-line striping, and an ordinance change making the turn illegal, is expected to largely address the problem.
Residents hoping for some sort of physical deterrent may not be satisfied, though. The county has rejected a request for the installation of flexible plastic poles known as “bollards” along the center line of Harding near the intersection, says Kosenski. The rationale, he says, is that the bollards would interfere with a homeowner’s access to his driveway on the north side of Harding, and create problems when it comes time to plow snow.
Under the plan, motorists traveling east (uphill) on Harding will still be permitted to turn right onto Tower Hill, an option that is presumed will appeal to few drivers other than residents of the block and their visitors.
Drivers heading north on Tower Hill will still be able to make a right onto Harding. A yellow “island” painted on the road surface will channel cars in that direction, says Kosenski.
The changes have been so long in coming, says Kosenski, because of the difficulties of finding a solution that wouldn’t unnecessarily burden other residential streets with vehicles diverted from Tower Hill.
To get to this point, traffic volume and redirection studies were conducted, with findings that suggested that making Tower Hill into a one-way street or cul-de-sac weren’t the way to go.
“That traffic is going to go somewhere,” says Kosenski.
The plan requires approvals from both Monmouth County and the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Kosenski expects to submit drawings for the changes to the county next week, and the office of Monmouth County Engineer Joe Ettore has been moving “expeditiously” on the request, he says.
“I expect they would give us a quick turnaround,” Kosenski says of his county counterparts. “They know this is a project of interest.”
Farther down the line in time, though just over the hill geographically, the county is also working on plans for the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Harding Road and Prospect Avenue, Ettore tells redbankgreen.
The light is needed, Ettore says, because of the accident record at the intersection and insufficient peak-hour capacity on Prospect, where cars often line up waiting for a chance to cross or turn onto Harding.
And when might the light go up?
“We are saying that probably the most optimistic date would be in the spring, and that’s going to take a lot of effort to expedite,” Ettore says. One open question he says, is whether property will have to be acquired by the county.