Will Jersey City’s lawmakers detour a proposed traffic change along a heavily-traveled Journal Square artery that many call a menace to the safety of area residents?
This puzzler will be parsed at tonight’s City Council session, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Council chambers at City Hall, 280 Grove St.
On the first matter, the council is being asked to introduce an ordinance to change St. Paul’s Avenue between Tonnele Avenue and Liberty Avenue to one-way westbound “to curtail highway pass-through traffic and truck traffic on St. Paul’s Avenue and improve the safety of all street users.”
City planners are also recommending a companion ordinance banning parking on the west side of Tonnele Avenue 130 feet north of the Van Winkle Avenue intersection in conjunction with installing a southbound left turn lane at that intersection as a safety measure. Four curbside parking spaces would be lost in the process.
Both proposed changes would be subject to a public hearing at the council’s April 12 meeting.
Barkha Patel, city infrastructure director, said the plan evolved from three years of “community engagement” and a week-long dry run late last year to test out the traffic shift. Additionally, the city inserted speed bumps and rounded curbs along St. Paul’s to encourage drivers to slow down.
Patel acknowledged the although the pilot didn’t run as long as advertised, it still achieved what it set out to accomplish—a calming of traffic along the avenue. At the same time, it did result in congestion along side streets off St. Paul’s, said director of transportation planning Michael Manzella.
But the time-consuming logjams prompted by the diversion of eastbound traffic on St. Paul’s prompted Ward C Councilmember Richard Boggiano and Councilmember-at-large Daniel Rivera to voice their opposition to the proposed rerouting plan.
Boggiano said many of his constituents from Newark Avenue’s “Little India,” along with residents from nearby Canco Lofts and St. John’s Apartments, signed petitions opposing the move. He said representatives of the city Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management are also against it, although Manzella said he’s heard from JCFD members who like the proposal.
Rivera, meanwhile, said “you can’t blame” drivers who are “stuck in traffic a half hour” for a drive that would normally take only minutes. He said it’s similar to what motorists have gone through in separate instances along sections of Grand Street and Montgomery Street in the wake of roadway improvement projects.
Patel reminded the council that city planners first got involved in the issue after residents who live on St. Paul’s or in the immediate area complained about “trucks threatening their homes with excessive vibrations and kids getting hit in crosswalks.”
If the city is being asked to decide which way to go on the basis on “travel time delay in going from point A to point B,” versus “people almost getting hit by huge volumes of traffic,” the city prefers to be “prioritizing safety for vulnerable (residents),” she said.
Council members debated whether to pause consideration of the proposed traffic changes while arranging for an extended pilot period but Patel cautioned that it would take a heavy commitment of city public works and public safety workers to manage the operation.
Moreover, Patel said, the people who live “in the immediate area” are already convinced this plan is the best alternative and they’re the ones “who pushed us to formalize it.”