By JOHN T. WARD
The sun won’t go down on a “tactical urbanist” experiment undertaken to improve traffic safety at a tricky Red Bank intersection earlier this year, redbankgreen has learned.
Though it looks a bit worse for wear just seven months after it was completed, a giant sun on a field of turquoise painted onto the asphalt at the intersection of Drs. James Parker Boulevard and Bridge Avenue was not meant to last, officials said in June, a month after it appeared.
Rather, the street mural was to serve as a “pedestrian safety demonstration project,” using vivid colors and shapes to stir motorists to attention at an intersection where a pedestrian and a bicyclist had been struck by cars in the prior five years, officials said.
At the intersection, an offset alignment of Bridge Avenue and South Bridge Avenue makes for some dicey turning maneuvers for drivers, and mad dashes by nervous pedestrians.
By introducing “positive distraction,” the mural would make drivers more aware of pedestrians and cyclists, as well as other vehicles traversing the intersection, Charles Brown, senior research specialist at the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, said in June.
The image, recommended by graduate students at Voorhees, reflects a “tactical urbanist” philosophy that cities should try bold measures when it comes to safety, environmentalism, economic development and more, Brown said.
Earlier this week, the Monmouth County Planning Board gave the project one of three planning merit awards.
“Some of the overall benefits of this project are the low cost and ability to test the effectiveness of the traffic calming measures before making more permanent and costly modifications,” the county said in a press release.
And how is it working in terms of safety metrics? Fresh accident data was not available Thursday. But an on-street survey of 29 passersby conducted by Voorhees students “garnered positive feedback, including participants reporting improved compliance with crosswalk laws,” according to a report on the project.
The survey respondents “had a positive attitude towards the changes to the intersection and said the project made it more attractive than it was before,” the report says. “Fifty-seven percent of the respondents affirmed that these changes would motivate them to walk in this are more often. For 53 percent of the respondents, these changes at the intersection have made them feel safer in the area.”
The project was underwritten by a Sustainable Jersey grant obtained by the borough Environmental Commission’s Green Team, which chose the intersection from a number of possible sites in town based in part on accident data. The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority provided $10,000 in funding to cover technical services for the project.
Eventually, plastic soft-hit bollards are expected to replace traffic cones placed at all four corners to keep vehicles from parking there and blocking sightlines, officials said.
The county also gave merit awards to a solar carport at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold and a mixed-use apartment complex called the Link in Aberdeen.