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A speed limit sign with a 35 miles per hour limit is seen on Grove Street near Chestnut Street on Monday. The county announced last week that it had approved the lowering of Grove Street’s speed limit to 30 miles per hour, in response to residents’ concerns about safety and accidents on the street. PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Grove Street’s speed limit will be reduced to 30 miles per an hour.

The Board of Chosen Freeholders voted on Wednesday, April 11, to lower the speed limit for the street’s entire length in Montclair. The decision comes within a year of two pedestrian deaths and six months after Montclair’s township council approved its own ordinance lowering the Grove Street speed limit from 35 miles per an hour to 30.

“[I] appreciate the responsiveness of the county executive and the Board of Chosen Freeholders,” Mayor Robert Jackson said. “Reduced speed, along with our beacon installations and improved lighting, will make Grove Street safer.”

County spokesperson Anthony Puglisi said that county ordinances generally take effect 21 days after they are passed, and that the new speed limit signs would be posted on Grove Street within that time.

“It is important for county and municipal governments to work together to enhance our residents’ quality of life and address areas of concern. Lowering the speed limit on Grove Street to 30 miles per hour is another example of how Essex cooperates with our municipal partners,” County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said in a statement released Tuesday, April 17.

Grove Street has come under scrutiny in recent years due to the street’s relatively high number of accidents, including two pedestrian fatalities over the past year.

According to the Montclair Police Department, there had been seven accidents with injuries on Grove Street as of March 1, with one accident resulting in a death. In 2017, there were 25 accidents, including one fatality. In 2016, there were 38 accidents, none of them resulting in a death.

In June 2017, Mary DeFilippis, an administrator at Montclair State University, had been out for an evening walk near the intersection of Grove Street and Chester Road when a vehicle struck her. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

In February, an Israeli woman working as an au pair in Montclair died after being struck by a bus near the intersection of Grove Street and Mt. Hebron Road. Maya Maor, 26, had just disembarked from the DeCamp bus that struck her. Authorities have not specified whether speed or other factors, such as low lighting or the day’s inclement weather, played a factor in Maor’s death.

“Residents have complained. The problems are a combination of speeding, poor lighting on the street, and a lack of means to force drivers to stop,” the press release read.

The current freeholder president is Brendan Gill, a Montclair resident.

The township’s pedestrian safety committee has been calling for a reduced speed limit on Grove Street for almost four years, said Chair of Drive With Care in Montclair Alexandra Kent.

“The committee is very excited that our efforts have come to fruition, and that the Essex County Freeholders unanimously voted to reduce the speed limit,” Kent said. “We began working on this three and a half years ago, so it is especially gratifying to have it finally approved. We appreciate all the advocating from the community at large; residents attending council meetings and speaking out in favor of this, as well as contacting council members. We are also grateful to the Montclair council members who voted for this on the township level.”

The next step will be to widen the painted median on Grove Street, a move that has gotten both the township’s and the county’s approval. The hope is that a widened median will encourage drivers to slow down. Grove Street is expected to be re-paved in the near future, and the median would be widened as part of that work, Kent said.

Kathleen Smith, who is also a member of Drive With Care in Montclair, said that the committee was also grateful to Township Engineer Kimberli Craft, who recently retired, for her work on getting the speed limit reduced.

Debra Kagan, the president of Bike and Walk Montclair, said the lowering of Grove Street’s speed limit will help reduce pedestrian crashes there, but more needs to be done throughout Montclair.

“More can be done to make our streets safer and more enjoyable for everyone,” she said.

She said that it was important for Montclair to invest in street improvements that made the roadways safer. “There are many communities just like ours that are implementing street designs and infrastructure that have [been] proven to create much safer, more equitable and inviting streets.”