Friday, April 22, 2011

Bump-outs on South Avenue

The Planning Board held a capital project review hearing last night on South Avenue reconstruction. It was gratifying to participate in a vigorous debate on what features are important in a transit village and the pros and cons of bump outs and other traffic calming measures. Residents, property owners and merchants were present to share their views. By the way, I was swamped with emails this week, mostly in favor of bump outs and a few opposed.

Administration officials have been saying that the community wants the bump outs eliminated. One surprising comment shed light on the way we get input from the community. As it turns out, the meetings on this topic have been poorly attended by the public and not well advertised. For the most part, only two merchants and one resident have been part of the discussion. The resident has been advocating for speed tables, signage and other strategies to protect pedestrians and drivers and to retain the transit village feel. These comments have been ignored.

One speaker expressed frustration at the inability to get attention from the Mayors office and said that the previous Mayor responded quickly to calls to replace missing bump out signage on South Avenue.

After healthy discussion, the Planning Board put together recommendations to the City Council for the South Avenue reconstruction.

Merchant concerns were addressed: bump outs will be reduced in size and curbing will be beveled or recessed. One bump out next to PNC Bank is a safety hazard and will be eliminated.

Resident concerns were also addressed: high pedestrian traffic areas - Belividere Ave and Plainwood Square Park - will maintain current bump out size (with beveled or recessed curbing though). One astute Planning Board member pointed out that bump out visibility is poor and that accidents can be prevented with signage and painted curbing. This became a recommendation. Also, walkways created with pavers will be retained.

It seems to me that the Mayor and Assemblyman Green want to focus on mistakes made by the previous administration and that the answer is to denigrate and eradicate all signs of their projects. Last night we participated in a rationale, issues oriented discussion about the bump outs and came away with a middle ground that can benefit everyone.

Now it is up to the City Council to decide what to do with the Planning Board recommendations. There will likely be additional cost and time involved for the South Avenue project. We are already projected to spend $1.3 million. I will not be surprised if the Mayor and her people oppose the Planning Board.

I say lets embrace the Planning Board recommendations. South Avenue is a successful public - private partnership that brings tax ratables and shoppers to Plainfield. If we are going to do this, lets do it right, in the spirit of transit villages. The Council has recommended various ways the administration can save money on capital projects. But lets not be short-sighted about last nights outcome. That will be a good investment for Plainfield.


Anonymous said...

I guess my first question is what will be the timetable for the work to be done?
Two comments first the street lights need to be put farther back from the curb to prevent some of the breakage, which is costly to repair. Second while the pavers used in the crosswalks have held up well, perhaps because of the concrete edge around them, many other towns that used pavers, particularly Westfield, have ugly patches over repairs.
The most important part of the project has to be making sure a through base is in place to extend the life of the surface.

Rob said...

South Avenue cannot even begin to compare with the 9th and Park Avenue project with the Mayor's name all over it... I think Maria Pellum would be more than pleased to show the pictures of that success story.
( and for the apologists...Yes, it's the county's ULTIMATE job, but it goes to show where Plainfield stands in Union County's priority list...most certainly our POWERFUL legislator has yet to awaken the county with the might wind of his all powerful roar ! )

Bob said...

I hope those who are in favor of "bump-outs" are aware of how they not only slow traffic, but are expensive and serve little purpose, but to keep people from going around someone making a left turn and causing those stuck often for minutes to want to hurry because of the delay. I would like to know what advantages there are for these dangerous "bump-outs."

Chuck Hale said...

If money is in short supply to fix the bump-outs a quick fix would be to restore the super-visible markers on each, which have gradually disappeared.

Bob said...

It's about time some common sense was applied to South Avenue, but what about the rest of the city. Why is South Ave. more important than 7th Street or 4th?

Pat Fox said...

Bump outs are recognized traffic calming devices that help slow down vehicles. People may not realize this but the speed limit on South Ave is 25mph. People drive 40-45 mph on that street making it very difficult and dangerous to try and cross the street as a pedestrian. Bumpouts have helped in this regard since they narrow the path for both people and cars.

South Ave patrons are lucky that most businesses have off street parking lots, however, this means the parking lanes remain relatively empty (except by Netherwood Station). When impatient drivers pass on the right and run into a bumpout they are actually driving in the parking lane.

Anonymous @4:26pm is right when saying that the condition of the roadway base affects the life span of the surface. This project -- which started under Mayor Mark Fury's term and was inherited by Al McWilliams -- was described to me as having enough money to either completely rebuild the road bed or mill and resurface the street and have funds for the streetscape niceties. The latter strategy was chosen during Fury's term and we built it. The design engineers did not expect the asphalt surface to last very long --as happened.

One last comment raised also raised by Anon @4:26 --- unfortunately the street lights can't be moved back any further or they would go out of the public right of way. If people would SLOW DOWN to the posted speed limit and not pass in the parking lane maybe there would be fewer incidents. We are a society in too big of a rush.

Anonymous said...

I live around the corner from South Avenue and the bumpouts have been hazards ever since they were put in place, especially at the corner of South Ave and Terrill Road. In fact, the bumpout at that location caused a serious accident last year, in which an SUV hit the bumpout and rolled over. But on a "bigger picture" scale, we need to let go of this "transit village" fantasy and start doing some meaningful things - like enforcing building maintenance codes and repaving our crumbling streets and bringing diverse businesses to serve the needs of ALL Plainfeld citizens into our downtown - that will make Plainfield a place where people want to stay, not get away from.

Anonymous said...

Bumpouts may be part of the issue but the condition of the roadway between South and Terrill is horendous. When are they going to fix that?

Anonymous said...

The "astute planning board member" also pointed out that if the roads were properly striped to delineate the driving lane and the parking lane, which is the lane protected by the bump outs, then even when there are no parked cars, drivers would know not to drive in the middle of their side of the road; it's when driving in the middle of your side of the road without regard to the parking lane that you will hit a bump out. The bump outs are not the problem. The problem is road striping.

Anonymous said...

Why not just enforce the speed limit? If you catch a couple of people each day, the speeders won't be going down that road. Take a look at Westfield, Scotch Plains, and South Plainfield. They quickly stop speeders and most people know not to speed in many areas. This would be a more common sense approach than the current tactics used in Plainfield.