SNOW ADDED TO TOP PED SAFETY CONCERNS

snow-sidewalkIt doesn’t do much good if snow blocks access to a shoveled sidewalk, residents say. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The list of concerns related to pedestrian safety are well-documented. Red Bank needs more traffic lights, better signage, sidewalk improves and more, residents say.

But now, with snow packed into blocks of ice at the end of sidewalks throughout town, fears are heightened that something bad is going to happen.

That concern, along with the usual gripes, were aired at Wednesday night’s monthly West Side Community Group meeting with police and Mayor Pasquale Menna.

“It’s not that the sidewalks are not shoveled. It’s just that the curbing is blocked with snow,” said Carl Colmorgen, a school crossing guard. “The crosswalks are there, but you can’t get to them because of the snow.”

But the problem is going to take time to resolve, officials said.

“The issue is where to put the snow,” said police Chief Steve McCarthy. “The DPW has been out day and night pulling up to remove snow.”

Colmorgen said he was driving on Bridge Avenue Saturday night when he saw, barely, a family wearing dark clothes walking in the street because they couldn’t get through a pile of snow on the sidewalk to cross.

Something similar happened to Amy Goldsmith, the community group’s moderator. She was running to the train station recently, but couldn’t make it the length of the sidewalk because of snow piles. And a bus was coming up behind her.

“It was like, Oh, let’s not get killed, and I need to run out into the street,” she said. “It was me and the bus and it was pretty darn close.”

The mounds of snow dotting corners of Red Bank are results of the intense weather the last few weeks. As a result, DPW has been playing catch-up, McCarthy said. The department has a schedule of what streets and sidewalks will get completely cleared out, and it takes time to get to all of them.

“It’s prioritizing,” he said. “I know they want to cut all the streets back. It’s just a matter of getting to them.”

While this particular concern will eventually melt away, residents are still hot on making the borough safer all around for walkers and bicyclists. That’s a work-in-progress heading in the right direction, Menna said.

Just yesterday, he received a 100-page report from the grassroots Safe Routes To School group offering a litany of suggestions to improve pedestrian safety in town, including adding more traffic lights, bumping out curbs at high-traffic areas and putting up more signage in town. A lot of those recommendations will likely be acted upon by the council, Menna said.

But there are other signs that improvements are coming, he said.

Also yesterday, the state Department of Transportation announced that Red Bank will receive $250,000 for streetscape improvements in the area of the train station. Next year, Monmouth County will make upgrades to the Front Street area of Hubbards Bridge, Menna said. That, he said, could translate into much-needed improvements on nearby, county-owned Shrewsbury Avenue — a top concern of Safe Routes, which suggested adding more traffic lights on the busy thoroughfare.

“I think we can probably get them on board with some of the improvements,” Menna said.

Making changes to the borough’s sidewalks and roadways is a vital step in improving pedestrian safety, but Menna said equally important is changing the mentality of drivers, which is a long process. That can be done through relentless enforcement, education and, if he can have his way, as many four-way stops as possible.

“Ultimately we’re trying to create a culture,” he said. “The only way you’re going to do it is slow people down.”

In time it will happen, McCarthy said.

“We continue to work and things are happening,” he said. “I think we’re heading in the right direction.”