Stop signs approved by Montclair Council for two intersections
Amid concerns from residents and government officials about overall traffic safety in Montclair, the Township Council approved at its Monday, March 27, meeting the installation of stop signs at two intersections.
At Inwood Avenue and Fernwood Avenue, where the streets curl around the Parkside Montessori School and the stone facing of the Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair, a new sign, officials hope, will ease dangers posed by the bend in the roads. The sign will be positioned to halt drivers traveling westbound on Inwood Avenue.
Two news signs were also approved for both directions of traffic on Franklin Avenue, creating a four-corner stop where the street traverses Virginia Avenue, at a busy Fourth Ward crossway.
The decisions to alter the rules of the road in separate parts of Montclair come at a time when Montclair’s elected leaders and advocates are contemplating the creation of a Vision Zero task force. A working group made up of Mayor Sean Spiller, Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis and Third Ward Councilor Lori Price Abrams is trying to determine a strategic and data-driven way to determine accident hot spots that warrant further precautions.
The group also includes Lt. Stephanie I. Egnezzo, supervisor of the Police Department’s traffic bureau, and Debra Kagan, executive director of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition.
Yacobellis, who has long urged the creation of a task force, called the goal of eliminating accidents an aspiration, but he cited Hoboken, Jersey City and Princeton as places that have drastically reduced collisions over the last few years. While the impulse to put traffic signs at intersections all over town is understandable, he said, traffic science has to be applied to limit unforeseen consequences.
“You have to look at what are the larger problems that are thematic,” Yacobellis said, “based on street topography, proximity to main roads, proximity to a commercial areas, like all kinds of variables and factors, and then we can deploy a particular mitigation tactic. In a world of cellphones and distracted driving, accidents will still happen, but we can get as close to zero as possible."
Earlier in the month, the council approved upgrading the intersection of Forest Street and Claremont Avenue to a four-corner stop. The intersection is a block and a half from the Municipal Building.
In approaching the wider problem, Price Abrams described a complex puzzle where changes made with new signs or traffic flow on a nearby road can have a ripple effect. The rerouting of traffic on Glenridge Avenue and the opening of the Midtown Parking Deck, she said, ended up causing an issue at the Forest Street and Claremont Avenue intersection, two blocks from the Municipal Building.
“Traffic is a delicate ecosystem,” she said. “Any changes to be made to ease what seems to be a safety hazard, they need to be reviewed by the traffic experts. It may be a stop sign and it may be other kinds of enforcement, but knowing the impacts when we make those changes is important, so we make them with due care.”
Price Abrams said she was trying to better understand what happens when a troublesome location is reported. She said she was unclear if the Police Department, in addressing it, puts the latest concerns in a queue or if certain intersections, regarded as more dangerous, receive priority.
A phone call to Egnezzo, the supervisor of the Police Department’s traffic bureau, was not immediately returned.
At nearly every council session residents come to the microphone during public comments with anecdotes of accidents they say might have been avoided were there a stop sign or traffic light to alert drivers to slow. At the Monday meeting, Olivia Searls, a young woman who graduated from Montclair High School, described an accident she had a few days earlier at the intersection of Cooper Avenue and Park Street. She urged the council to address what she said were frequent collisions there, and Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock, who presided over the meeting in place of Spiller, promised swift attention.
An online petition to place four-way stop signs at that intersection as well as on the next street, Summit Avenue, had drawn more than 250 signatures by Wednesday afternoon, March 29.
On the petition, she described her recent accident as “near fatal.”
“My eyes have been opened by my experience today,” she wrote. “Why has our town not made a change, as our fellow residents are continuously involved in accidents in this area? It is not my want, but it is a need for our town to implement safer precautions on these streets.”