By LINDA MOSS and ERIN ROLL
Essex County will be making traffic-safety improvements to 12 intersections along Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, including some of the town’s most treacherous ones, using a $9.7 million federal grant that it was just awarded.
That news was part of an announcement Wednesday by Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. regarding a total of $18.8 million in grants that the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) has awarded to the county for safety improvements at 31 intersections in not only Montclair but Orange, East Orange, Newark, Belleville, Irvington, Bloomfield and Maplewood.
The improvements will be completed as part of two separate projects.
One $9.7 million grant will pay for traffic-signal upgrades, pedestrian-countdown signals, high-visibility crosswalks and left-turn lanes to be installed, “where feasible,” at a dozen intersections along Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair and nine intersections along Park Avenue in Orange, East Orange and Newark.
As part of that work, new traffic signals will be installed on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair at three of its most troublesome intersections for vehicles and pedestrians; namely Midland Avenue, Seymour Street, and Fullerton Street-Church Street-Glenridge Avenue, according to an updated press release that listed all the affected intersections that the county issued Thursday, a day after its first release.
The other intersections in the township slated for safety upgrades are: Mountain Avenue; Orange Road-Bell Street; Valley Road; Park Street; Willow Street: Gates Avenue-Lackawanna Plaza; Elm Street-Grove Street; Hartley Street; and Maple Avenue-Pine Street.
Similar upgrades will be made with a $5.1 million grant at 11 intersections on five county roads: Franklin Avenue in Belleville; Springfield Avenue in Irvington; Bloomfield Avenue in Bloomfield; Broadway in Newark; and Valley Street in Maplewood.
New traffic signals will be installed on Springfield Avenue at Smith and Orange streets, on Broadway at Kearny and Carteret streets, and on Valley Street at Pierson Road.
“We want everyone to feel safe on our roads whether they’re walking, driving, visiting our local businesses or using public transit,” DiVincenzo, who serves as secretary of the NJTPA board, said in a statement. “These grants will help us improve safety at some of our most heavily trafficked intersections for pedestrians.”
The projects are among 14 throughout the region that NJTPA approved at its Monday, Jan. 22, meeting. The Essex County projects are part of the NJTPA’s Local Safety Program, which provides federal funds for cost-effective solutions that can make an immediate impact on their target areas.
Last May Essex County and six of its municipalities, including Montclair, teamed up with NJTPA to try to reduce the number of accidents involving pedestrians on bustling Bloomfield Avenue. That joint initiative was called the Street Smart NJ pedestrian-safety education campaign.
At that time, officials said that Bloomfield Avenue is one of the busiest corridors in Essex County. From 2011 through 2015 there were 256 pedestrians involved in crashes there, with three fatalities and 226 injuries, officials said.
Police Lt. David O’Dowd said Friday that in 2017, there had been five accidents involving pedestrians on Bloomfield Avenue: at Seymour Street, St. Luke’s Place, Grove Street, Church Street and South Fullerton Avenue.
Alexandra Kent, coordinator of Drive With Care in Montclair, said that her pedestrian-safety group was thrilled with the announcement of the pending upgrades.
Kent said that she had heard that Midland Avenue and Seymour Street had been in consideration to get traffic lights. She also said that the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue with Church Street and North and South Fullerton avenues had been supposed to get new turn signals some time ago, but when the county went to do the improvements, it found that the electrical systems connected to the traffic lights were outdated and in need of an upgrade.
Kent said that traditionally, Bloomfield Avenue is the most dangerous street in Montclair for pedestrians, accounting for 25 percent of all pedestrian accidents each year.
The NJTPA Board approved $50.8 million in Local Safety Program and High Risk Rural Roads grants for projects that will proceed in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.
The NJTPA is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for 13 northern New Jersey counties. Under federal legislation, MPOs provide a forum where local officials, public transportation providers and state agency representatives can come together and cooperatively plan to meet the region’s current and future transportation needs. The agency establishes the region’s eligibility to receive federal tax dollars for transportation projects.