By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s long-awaited plan to extend streetscape touches down a neglected stretch of Monmouth Street includes a mid-block crossing at the County Basie Theatre, officials say.
Depending on the cost, the project might also include a reworking of the landscaping across the street from the theater, on borough hall property, into an outdoor seating area for theater patrons and others, they said.
Part of the borough’s annual road program, the Monmouth Street upgrade calls for a repaving of the street from Maple Avenue to the train station and the installation of flourishes that mimic those east of Maple, town Engineer Christine Ballard, of T&M Associates, tells redbankgreen.
They include sidewalks with brick shoulders, decorative LED lamps and trash-and-recycling receptacles, Ballard said, noting that the eastern stretch features only trash, not recycling bins.
The mid-block crossing, a sparingly used feature, will be done in red pavers, creating a kind of red-carpet effect, Ballard said. The aim, she said, is to improve safety for pedestrians, particularly when hundreds of them converge upon or leave the theater in a span of a few minutes before and after a show.
Theater officials said Tuesday they weren’t aware the crossing was in the plans, and were pleased to learn about it from redbankgreen.
“That’s great news,” said theater CEO Numa Saisselin. “It’s something we have talked about and asked for. The customers will love it.”
Town officials had to obtain approval from the state Department of Transportation for the feature because the $1.7 million road program is partially funded by the agency, Ballard said.
The Monmouth Street work, part of an effort to revitalize a business corridor long in decline, is expected to cost about $600,000 Ballard said.
Other elements of the road plan include repaving Peters Place and the installation of a pedestrian-activated, high-visibility beacon at the busy intersection with Maple Avenue.
The cost of an E-shaped seating area on the borough hall side of Monmouth, opposite the theater, would be borne by Red Bank RiverCenter, if it gets built at all. Specs for the proposal were included as an alternate plan in the requests for bids that were made available to contractors, but executive director Nancy Adams tells redbankgreen she’s not sure the money will be there, now that RiverCenter is helping carry the cost of defending a lawsuit brought last week by New Jersey Natural Gas.
Bids for the streetscape project are due Wednesday. A contract could be awarded as soon as the next meeting of the mayor and council, on March 28, Ballard said.
The council approved the road plan with little discussion at its March 14 session, and no mention of the mid-block crossing. A few minutes later, resident and board of education member Marjorie Lowe, who works part-time at the Clearview Cinemas on White Street, asked the council to sacrifice a parking space opposite the movie theater for the creation of a mid-block crosswalk.
Mayor Pasquale Menna told her that mid-block crosswalks were not permitted.
Ballard tells redbankgreen that crossing at that location would require an analysis that might not pass muster with the DOT because of the number of driveways emptying onto White Street in close proximity to it.