BY TARA KOLTON
for Montclair Local
Motorists be aware: the intersection of Gates Avenue and Union Street is set to become a four-way stop.
The multi-way stop should help curb traffic issues at this intersection, which has been the site of 31 motor vehicle crashes over the past three years. The intersection is near Charles H. Bullock Elementary School.
In response to concerns raised by residents about the safety of the intersection, Township Engineer Kimberli Craft conducted an engineering study to assess the existing conditions.
“Multi-way stop control is recommended for the subject intersection for the safe and expeditious flow of traffic,” according to the Intersection Assessment Report dated Dec. 21, 2017.
The township installed “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” warning signs on both Union Street approaches in June 2016, according to the report. Concerns were since raised by the Montclair Police Traffic Bureau, which led to the new engineering study.
Craft reviewed the intersection’s crash history, traffic volume, and speed and site conditions, during which she found that “traffic volumes were slightly less than the warrants but the average annual crashes exceeded warrants by 30 percent.” Warrants in this case refer to the requirements of the New Jersey statutes and the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) that locations being considered for multi-way stop control must meet.
The accident history for the intersection, as documented by the Montclair Police Department’s crash reports for the three-year period from January 2014 to Dec. 15, 2017, showed a total of 31 crashes at the location, nine of which resulted in an injury to one or more people. Twenty-six of the 31 crashes were right angle intersection crashes, and 16 of those involved a vehicle traveling westbound on Union Street. Most of the accidents occurred between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., with clear weather and dry surface conditions.
None of the accidents were fatal. While one involved a bicyclist, there were no pedestrian-involved incidents.
“I don’t doubt that it is a scary intersection and could benefit from a four-way stop. It is very close to Bullock School, so I am sure parents park near that intersection in the morning and afternoon, making visibility poor, and increasing pedestrian traffic, including many children,” said Alex Kent, coordinator of Drive With Care in Montclair.
Craft’s study noted that Union Street slopes upward from east to west through the intersection and Gates Avenue slopes downward toward Bloomfield Avenue as it approaches the intersection creating some sight distance challenges for motorists.
“This sight distance can be further limited by the presence of parked vehicles,” she noted.
A volume and speed data study conducted in March 2016 on Union Street and Gates Avenue also found that the average speed of cars was higher than the posted 25 mph speed limit on both roads.
“Although the volume warrants are not fully met, in my professional judgment, and particularly in consideration of the number of crashes at this intersection, multi-way stop control is recommended for this intersection,” concluded Craft.
The ordinance for the multi-way stop was introduced at the Jan. 23 Montclair Township Council meeting, and approved on Feb. 20.
The four-way stop sign was expected to be installed by March 12, according to Township Communications Director Katya Wowk. Due to storm cleanup from last week’s Nor’ Easter, the installation of the stop signs has been postponed, however. No new installation date has been set, said Wowk.