By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
One of Red Bank’s busiest intersections is getting a safety review from local officials following the departure of one of its crossing guards over safety concerns.
They didn’t broach the topic Monday night until Audrey Oldoerp, a mother of three, pleaded with the council to make the intersection safer.
“If a crossing guard feels the intersection is unsafe, how can my children and I cross with any peace of mind?” Oldoerp asked.
Mayor Pasquale Menna said an off-duty police officer is now stationed at the intersection while borough officials try to work out a deal with St. James church and Red Bank Catholic, both located on Peters Place, to either compensate for or provide traffic services at the heavily-traveled spot.
“There is a problem at that intersection,” Menna said.
It’s a problem that’s gotten worse, council President Art Murphy said.
Last year, crossing guard John Mego was hit by a car while wearing a head-to-toe reflective neon suit. After only a couple of weeks back on the job this school year, Mego, who is a longtime volunteer firefighter, called it quits because it was too dangerous.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher every year,” Murphy said. “And it’s bad. I see it.”
Mego’s departure has spurred a focused interest in the intersection. Borough officials have started talks with police Chief Steve McCarthy, as well as St. James and RBC, to work out an arrangement at the intersection.
Whether a crossing guard or police officer will be stationed there is unknown, Menna said. Both were at the intersection Tuesday morning.
“We have to take a look at a number of issues,” he said.
The borough has been addressing pedestrian safety recently. The police department secured a grant earlier this year to conduct undercover operations nabbing drivers who don’t yield to people in crosswalks.
Still, accidents continue to happen. Crossing guard Andy DePonti was hit by a car just a couple weeks ago, and Mego, fearful of being struck again, left the guards because he said, ‘this is a way to shorten your life.’
Oldoerp said action needs to be swift, because she fears there’ll be another accident or, even worse, someone will get killed there and people will be “wishing something were done to prevent it.”