Members of Together North Jersey presented proposed solutions to five problematic intersections along Bloomfield Avenue as part of an update on the Bloomfield Avenue Complete Corridor Plan on June 26 at Bloomfield College’s Science Hall.
The update was provided as part of an open house/workshop meeting that was held from 5 to 8 p.m. Residents and other interested parties were invited to provide input into the possible solutions offered to improve the five intersections. The goal of the proposed changes is to make Bloomfield Avenue more supportive to everyone who uses it, including pedestrians, bicyclists, commuters and shoppers, as well as drivers.
Together North Jersey, also known as North Jersey Sustainable Communities Consortium, received a $5 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in November 2011.
A portion of the funds is being used to implement 15 “local demonstration projects” to create “on the ground” success stories to enable communities to make transit corridors more livable and encourage sustainability. The Bloomfield Avenue Complete Corridor Plan is one of the 15 projects chosen as part of this program.
The project addresses a four-mile span of Bloomfield Avenue as it wends its way through Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Montclair and Verona. The goals of the project are to assess the current conditions; identify gaps in transportation, pedestrian and bike access; develop a unified concept plan consistent with Essex County’s Complete Streets program; and study prototypical designs for key nodes/intersections. Ultimately, improving the health and safety of those using the thoroughfare is another key goal.
The intersections studied for the project were:
• Park Street and Bloomfield Avenue across from Bottle King (Bloomfield/Glen Ridge)
• Ridgewood Avenue and Bloomfield Avenue (Glen Ridge)
• North/South Fullerton Avenue and Bloomfield Avenue (Montclair)
• Valley Road and Bloomfield Avenue (Montclair)
• Lakeside Avenue and Bloomfield Avenue (Verona)
The project team researched the existing traffic situation, including performing car, pedestrian and bicycle counts. Problems noted included high speed driving, long traffic queues for turning, illegal turns, and conflicts between cars parking and turning. Among pedestrians, there were numerous incidents of jaywalking, busy or blocked crosswalks, and distracted walking (using cell phones while walking). For bicyclists, there were the problems of heavy traffic, no identifiable routes, lack of bike racks or storage, and bicyclists riding on sidewalks.
For commuters using the trains, buses and shuttles that traverse Bloomfield Avenue, lack of bike racks and storage is a problem for them as well. In addition, buses often stop at a location with no pedestrian crossing, or pick up passengers in the middle of a crosswalk, blocking other pedestrians from crossing.
The team sought public input in various ways. Focus groups were held among civic leaders, emergency service providers, residents, commuters, merchants and health professionals; public input was obtained at local fairs and festivals; and an online survey was conducted. So far approximately 900 people have filled out the online survey and the deadline to participate has been extended to July 13.
Preliminary survey results show that over 60% of respondents feel the traffic along Bloomfield Avenue has gotten worse; and 80% either don’t know the speed limit or only think they know what it is. The biggest improvement both drivers and walkers would like to see along Bloomfield Avenue is better enforcement of existing traffic laws. Walkers would also like to see better crossing signals and more crossing time for pedestrians. Drivers generally want more opportunities to turn on or off the avenue. Bicyclists would like to see dedicated bike lanes and better traffic enforcement as well.
Some of the solutions for the specific problems that exist at the five intersections chosen for the project include:
• Add an ergonomic crosswalk (a crosswalk that bends in the direction people tend to walk) and bump-outs on each side of Bloomfield Avenue at Park Street to enable pedestrians to cross over Bloomfield Avenue, and revamp entrances at Bottle King and the bank next to it.
• Paint center of intersection at Ridgewood Avenue, add ergonomic crosswalks, and add new north and south exclusive turn phases to the traffic light.
• Paint lane markings at N/S Fullton/Glenridge Avenue intersection on Bloomfield Avenue to facilitate turns and keep cars in appropriate lanes. Paint ergonomic crosswalks, install bumpouts, provide left turn lanes.
• Similarly, at the Valley Road intersection, paint lane markers to guide vehicles, add ergonomic crosswalks, and move one bus stop so that it is directly across from the other.
• At Lakeside Avenue in Verona, new guidelines and lane arrows would help guide traffic more appropriately. Moving the school dropoff spot would also be helpful.
Only one Bloomfield intersection was included in the study, something that was questioned by a member of the audience during the presentation. Two other intersections in Bloomfield are already being revamped, explained Mike DiGeronimo of LRK, an architecture firm involved in the project. The Six Points intersection at Broad Street and Bloomfield Avenue will undergo a major transformation as part of the ongoing Center redevelopment project.
In addition, preliminary concepts have been completed for the Grove Street/Bloomfield Avenue intersection as part of a pilot program being done for the Essex County Complete Streets program.
Martin Gill, a local resident, suggested that shade trees be incorporated as part of the improvements, pointing out that trees not only improve the aesthetics of the streets, but improve the environment, provide a traffic calming effect and make walking on the street more pleasant.
The next steps in the project are to complete the Health Impact study, and to issue a final report later in the summer. After that, the towns can then work with the County to implement the changes that are recommended in the report.