PEDESTRIAN’S DEATH PROMPTS SAFETY TALKS

maple-w-frontBorough officials have asked the state DOT to look into safety improvements at the Maple Avenue/West Front Street intersection, where a pedestrian was killed two weeks ago. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The death of a 40-year-old pedestrian two weeks ago has spurred Red Bank police and other officials into discussions with  the New Jersey Department of Transportation over safety at the intersection in which she was hit by a truck.

Additionally, local leadership is brainstorming ways to make walking on borough streets less hazardous, they say.

On the list to accomplish that goal: speed-limit reductions, more four-way stops, and changes to signs and lighting, specifically at the intersection of West Front Street and Maple Avenue, where Laura Martin was hit and killed by a New Jersey Transit truck on October 27.

Council members addressed the topic Monday night, when resident April Klimley appeared before the governing body urging it to take action on one of the issue.

Klimley, of Riverside Avenue, said Maple — which doubles as state Highway 35 — and West Front is one of the borough’s most dangerous intersections for pedestrians, and said she’s gathered ideas from area residents to improve its safety.

“It’s very difficult for people to cross because there’s about 25 seconds to cross,” she said, and suggested the borough investigate the timing of the traffic lights.

Council President Art Murphy said that the day after Martin died, police studied the lights, signs and traffic at the intersection. The department’s findings will be shared with the state DOT for possible changes at the location, he said. There have already been a handful of meetings among local officials and with the DOT concerning the busy intersection, he said.

“The borough is working on it. The [police] chief is on it,” Murphy said. “There are a number of things the chief is looking into to hopefully cure the problem.”

In recent months, pedestrian and biker safety concerns have given rise to a grassroots organization promoting pedestrian safety and to the borough obtaining state funds for heightened traffic safety enforcement.

Two school crossing guards have been hit by cars in the last year — one of them, deputy fire chief John Mego, quit last month out of fear of being hit a second time — and there have been several ped vs. car accidents this year.

Martin was the second pedestrian to die after being hit crossing a borough street this year. Alla Tsiring, 44, of Staten Island died in April of injuries sustained when she was run over by an SUV at Broad Street and East Bergen Place two months earlier.

The borough was also selected recently to receive $500,000 in federal funds aimed at making the Front Street/River Road corridor safer by installing new sidewalk and crosswalk configurations.

Even with these changes, Mayor Pasquale Menna, who said he’d like to see the town full of four-way stop signs, said the problem will persist until the mindset of drivers — and in many cases, pedestrians, too — changes.

“I just think we need to slow people down and get them to think,” Menna said.

Safe Routes Red Bank, the group whose mission is to cut down bus routes and find other alternatives to car travel, meets at 7p Monday at borough hall for anyone interested in the group’s initiative. [Correction: there is no set schedule of regular meetings for Safe Routes. Check redbankgreen‘s Go On Green calendar for the next one.]