Chestnut_obrienA bit of the usual mayhem as motorists try to cross Bridge Avenue this morning. Cabbie John O’Brien thinks the four-way stop is a “great idea.”

For many motorists, it’s right up there with the traffic circle on the dread scale: the four-way-stop intersection.

On paper, it seems simple: whichever car has been waiting longest goes next. But in practice, it’s can be another of those Darwinian tests in which the pragmatic, the cautious and the timid are thrust into the coliseum against the bold, the aggressive, and even the reckless.

Then there’s the opposite: the clash of the passives, in which indecision rules. “You go first.” “No, you.”

Red Bank is about to get a four-way at a major crossroad. And there may be more in the future.

Last night, the borough council voted to change traffic rules to reflect the pending installation of four stops at the intersection of Bridge Avenue and Chestnut Street. The intersection is nominally controlled by a blinking yellow on Bridge and red on Chestnut, supplemented by stop signs on Chestnut.

It’s an “imperfect” solution, Mayor Pasquale Menna tells redbankgreen. But after 20 years of having the state Department of Transportation reject demands for a full traffic light there, it’s the best way to enable cars to more easily cross Bridge Avenue while improving safety at a spot where there have been accidents and fatalities in the past, he says.

“Half a loaf is better than none,” he says.

The problem is that the volume of vehicles on the north-south Bridge can make it difficult for cars to cross or turn onto Bridge from Chestnut. Traffic at that spot is up in recent years, Menna says, as a result of the elimination of the old Oakland Street grade crossing of the New Jersey Transit railroad tracks several years back.

Then there’s the problem of speeding, as motorists trying to avoid traffic on nearby Shrewsbury Avenue use Bridge as highway-like alternative.

The DOT’s argument against a traffic light, says Menna, is that the intersection is too close to an existing light, at Bridge and Monmouth Street, where the NJT tracks cross the intersection at street level. Adding a nearby light would “cause havoc with” the synchronization of train crossings and traffic signaling, he says the DOT claims.

Menna says the installation of the additional stop signs will take place as soon as the public works department can get to the task. And while the borough will have to also install alerts to let motorists know of the change, he’s confident that “people will get used to it in time.”

Taxi driver John O’Brien heard about the plan this morning from redbankgreen, and instantly pronounced it a “great idea.”

It can be tough getting across Bridge, he says, adding, “I see a lot of people run that stop (light)” out of frustration.

But he also sees many motorists on Bridge stopping to allow those on Chestnut to enter or cross Bridge, causing those behind them on Bridge to try passing on the right, endangering other motorists and pedestrians.

“I don’t see a lot of accidents, but it’s dangerous,” he says.

Menna says that if there are other locations in town where motorists and residents would like to see four-way stops, he’s open to the idea.

“The way to deal with that is to deal with individual neighborhood requests,” he says.

Here’s the ordinance: Download 2008-14.pdf

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