Lenox Avenue Area Residents Question Traffic Re-Routing Proposal

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Updated 8:03 p.m. with a correction and an explanation of the functionality of the Transportation Advisory Committee, which is an advisory committee with no fiduciary powers, run and staffed by resident volunteers and reporting to the township through a Trustee liaison.

More than 100 South Orange and Maplewood residents in the area of Lenox Avenue in South Orange have signed a petition questioning a preliminary proposal to re-route traffic from Lenox Avenue onto side streets in and at the border with Maplewood.

The proposal is being made as part of an effort to increase safety at the intersection of Lenox Avenue and S. Ridgewood Road as well as at Lenox Avenue and Wyoming Avenue.

However, residents on Lenox Place, Lenox Terrace, Thornden Street and Cedar Lane contend that re-routing the traffic will not necessarily improve safety at those intersections and, meanwhile, will exacerbate safety issues in their area while pushing traffic onto narrow streets often filled with playing children.

See the full text of the petition below.

Area residents previously brought their concerns to the Maplewood Township Committee, asking the TC to pass a resolution requesting that South Orange allow discussion between the two towns and the two towns’ engineers about the proposal. Maplewood passed a resolution making that request by a vote of 5-0 on June 21.

A number of Maplewood and South Orange residents opposing the potential re-routing spoke at the South Orange Board of Trustees meeting on Monday night, August 8, asking the Trustees not to approve any such plan to re-route traffic from Lenox Avenue onto Lenox Place, Thornden Place and Cedar Lane should it be presented to them.

At the August 8 Trustees meeting, Trustee Jeff Dubowy pointed out that the study and proposal was an effort “to mitigate problems” at Lenox Avenue and S. Ridgewood as well as at Lenox Avenue and Wyoming where there was a fatality several years back. Dubowy said he hoped “that we can come up with some solution that is amenable.”

Dubowy noted that there a public forum was scheduled at The Baird (5 Mead Street, South Orange) on Wednesday, August 10, at 7:30 p.m. in order to present the South Orange Transportation Advisory Committee’s “Lenox Avenue Traffic Study.”

Ron Charles, who chairs a subcommittee working on traffic issues within the committee, promoted the August 10 meeting in an August 8 email, writing, “While many of you may have already attended one of our smaller presentations here in the neighborhood, this is a very important meeting where we will give a wide-ranging presentation of the traffic study and its ongoing evolution, as well as have a public comment period where ideas, critiques, support, and any other statements can be made.”

(Editor’s note: The South Orange Transportation Advisory Committee is an advisory committee run and staffed by resident volunteers and reporting to the township through a Trustee liaison. It has no governing power and cannot make policy decisions; as the name suggests, it merely acts in an advisory capacity. Village Green previously erroneously reported the name of the committee as the “Traffic Advisory Committee.”)

Meanwhile, residents who spoke at the Board of Trustees meeting on Monday said that they had not been included in those smaller meetings despite the fact that their streets and properties would be impacted by the proposal.

Charles’ email noted that South Orange and Maplewood leaders would likely be in attendance at the August 10 meeting “to listen to our presentation and listen to the feedback we’re given by the public. If you’re a supporter, attend! If you’re not a supporter, attend! If you have no idea what we’ve been spending all this time on, attend to catch up!”

He added, “This meeting is a great way to ensure your voice is heard!”

In a follow-up email to the Village Green, Charles further explained: “We have taken steps to address people’s concerns to our preliminary proposal. Also [it’s] important to note that the preliminary proposal of bisecting Lenox Avenue would be done only in a ‘pilot’ format to verify all safety improvements were quantifiable and that no other streets would be unduly impacted by the change (this is in addition to studying it from every angle before the pilot were installed to ensure as much as possible that no unexpected traffic trouble would occur and no one’s children were carelessly put at risk). My team put the proposal out there as a way to expand the conversation and generate interest and support for making these dangerous intersections safer. We’re incredibly encouraged that even though the petitioners raise concerns about the bisection proposal, they have stated in person to us that they agree that the Lenox Avenue intersections have a definite safety problem that must be addressed.”

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