Montclair’s town council took a step toward making streets safer Monday by voting unanimously to introduce a proposed ordinance that would establish speed limits of 20 miles per hour in school zones on Essex County roadways as well as a resolution to lower overall speed limits in town to 25 miles per hour. This would mean reducing speeds on county roads within Montclair where the speed limit is as high as 35 miles per hour.
“On county roads and county roadways the Township does not have the right to dictate what the speeds are. However, in conversations with the county around schools and lowering the speeds, they said they would be amenable to that,” said Mayor Sean Spiller of Essex County.
The discussion among the councilors about speed limits in town raised additional issues to consider. The original ordinance only mentioned four school zones and was not uniform; there was an ask of a change to 20 mph on Elm Street and 25 mph at school zones along Grove Street and Valley Road.
Councilor Robert Russo and Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock both called for the ordinance to be amended to 20 mph in all school zones. Hurlock also raised the issue of assessing other possible school zones, mentioning Lacordaire Academy as one example, to make sure all were at 20 miles per hour if they weren’t already.
“We need to go out and look around to see where daycare centers are located and potentially include them as well,” Councilor David Cummings added.
Spiller said he was confident that Essex County would act on the council’s recommendation, stating they had asked for the request to be put it in resolution form.
“There are no street signs,” said Councilor Robin Schlager of the absence of posted speed limit signs on Valley Road between Bellaire Drive and Brunswick Road and the need for signage to remind people to slow down.
Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock also spoke to the need for enforcement. “There are some great ordinances in the books in this town but they’re just not enforced,” he added.
Almost all the township roads have been reduced to 25 mph, said Spiller, but he also spoke of the higher speed limits on county roads.
Sudden changes in the speed limit along the same road may contribute to speeding in Montclair. For instance, Upper Mountain Avenue, cited by a resident as a speedway for commuters, is 35 miles per hour from Claremont Avenue until you reach Watchung Avenue, heading uptown. At Watchung Avenue, the speed limit then drops down to 30 mph.
“It will begin to make a difference when we start slowing people down,” said Councilor Lori Price Abrams.
After the council voted to pass the first reading of the amended school zone speed limit ordinance, a resolution introduced by Councilor Robert Russo sought to address the higher speed limits on Upper Mountain and other county roads. The resolution, also passed unanimously, requests that all county roads in the town, not including those that are already 25 mph or below, are changed to 25 mph.
In 2018, Essex County approved a speed limit change on Grove Street, reducing it to 30 miles per hour.