Complete Streets: suburban feel, safety paramount for Planning Board
by TINA PAPPAS
for Montclair Local
An emphasis on maintaining a suburban feel to curb appeal and safety measures is what Township Planning Board members want prioritized in the Complete Streets Implementation Plan, which was presented at the planning board meeting on Monday, Feb. 5.
The township adopted the plan in 2009, which is geared to promote safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and other users of the state’s roadways. It requires that future roadway improvement projects include safe accommodations for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders and the mobility-impaired.
The plan was previously presented to the Township Council on Nov. 16 by the township consultant and principal engineers NV5 of Parsippany. It was then sent to the planning board for review and comments.
The implementation plan was completed through a grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation and facilitated by a steering committee, Township Planner Janice Talley said. The township received the grant in 2016 to conduct an implementation plan and build consensus on priorities, as part of the township’s Safe Streets Are for Everyone initiative, known as SAFE.
“The purpose of the plan was to provide guidance so our streets are designed for safe driving, bicycling and walking,” Talley said, “We put a lot of work into this through a series of outreach meetings and consultants who worked with us to create the plan, and what came out from the public outreach process is that there’s not one magic formula.” She added that one size does not fit all, due to different street typologies.
One of the recommendations is to adopt the Complete Streets Implementation Plan as part of the Master Plan, in accordance with the new land use and circulation plan, adopted in 2015 and amended in 2017, Talley said.
“The language in our adoptive plan really set the basis for doing our complete streets implementation plan,” she said. “In our master plan, we also have a circulation plan, which we have our recommendations on circulate as it relates to mobility.”
During the presentation, she highlighted issues and opportunities regarding pedestrian and bike accommodations. She emphasized that the community outreach began in 2010, resulting in an updated 2014 plan, which relayed community feedback on safety concerns and easy alternatives to automobiles, bicycle connections, improvements for pedestrians, mobility and getting through town from point A to point B.
More specific line items to be tackled under the plan identified unsafe intersections and streets, and creating safe, predictable mobility options. Another goal is to establish a network of pedestrians and cyclists, specifically to have a complete network of attractive streetscapes, sidewalks, crosswalks, bikeways and passageways that include improved lighting of crosswalks and smooth sidewalks free of tripping hazards. For bicyclists, it includes routes that encourage all users of all experience levels to ride. Ample, secure bicycle parking should be made available and easy to find.
Upgrades to transit service are also included, noting frequent weekday train service within the township and Montclair State University rail service supported with a comprehensive system of local bus and jitney shuttle service.
It also includes intra-township transit coverage by linking buses and jitney shuttles to one another and integrating them into the larger commuter/regional bus and rail network.
Other concerns included accessibility for joggers and enforcing certain rules during inclement weather. Some board members commended the plan and its selection of certain streets. But other board members said the implementation needed more revision. Also, putting the plan into phases was recommended by several planning board members.
“This needs more work getting to the point where the board would consider incorporating it into the master plan,” said John Wynn, planning board chair. “You have guidelines on how the streets should be used but how does the plan work on a practical level, how does it get implemented? That’s not research, that’s analysis.”
Martin Schwartz, planning board member, discussed the aesthetic of bold stripe markings on roadways that could potentially impact a residential street.
“Something on Bloomfield Avenue should not be the same thing we put in our residential streets,” he said. “I think we can include some aspects of Complete Streets but still reflect that we have residential neighborhoods with streets that may not be wide enough for bike lanes everywhere.”
Wynn echoed the sentiment. “Maybe there are some ways striping can be done without looking industrial and this has to do with the pattern,” Wynn said. “That’s something we should consider from neighborhood to neighborhood and that one size doesn’t fit all.”
Further review will be conducted and a date has yet to be set for presenting a revised implementation plan, Talley said, but board members’ request to prioritize sections of the township will be taken into consideration. The presentation will be available on the township’s website this week.
In other business, Daniel Gilmer, a newcomer to the board, was sworn in. Committee appointments were also drafted.