By DON STINE
Asbury Park officials will petition the state to prevent NJ Transit from closing off the crossovers on its railroad tracks at Summerfield and First Avenues.
“NJ Transit wants to do away with the crossings over its tracks on Summerfield Avenue in Asbury Park and they would like to do it right away,” City Manager Jack Kelly said earlier this week.
He said NJT cites safety and maintenance as the main reasons for eliminating the crossover, adding that the First Avenue crossover is also on the list to be eliminated.
According to a 2009 DOT study, Summerfield Avenue has the highest number of car accidents and the lowest amount of pedestrian traffic.
“It’s primarily safety and (NJT) argues that the fewer crossings you have, the safer it is,” he said.
Kelly said he has requested DOT data on the safety record of the Summerfield Avenue crossing.
“I asked them for their numbers but have not received anything yet. I do not believe it is prudent to close the crossings,” he said.
He said that city officials will petition the state Department of Transportation to overturn NJT’s decision to eliminate the crossings.
“This is not a done deal yet and I am hoping it is far from being a done deal,” he said.
Kelly said the crossover closing came from a county plan for improving Springwood Avenue and the surrounding area.
“And the plan is taking the opportunity to close Summerfield,” he said.
Kelly said that City Engineer Joseph Cunha met last year with NJT officials to discuss the closure plans. He said the council, however, was not aware of the plans. Not hearing any objections, NJT went ahead with its plan, he said.
“We had a recent meeting where (NJT) is trying to push this thing through. We are being put in a bind and I hope the DOT recognizes that this is not a good idea,” he said.
Sam Vaccaro, owner of The Hardware Store at the intersection of Summerfield Avenue and Main Street, said he hopes the city is successful in stopping the project.
“This has to have an adverse effect on businesses. If it’s a safety issue, then solve it – that’s their problem, not the city’s,” he said.
Vaccaro said that the city narrowed the width of Summerfield Avenue about five years ago by about four feet to provide for a green apron along the edge.
“Now I can’t get a delivery tractor-trailer in my work yard because the street is too narrow and I have to unload items in the street. I get two 40-foot trailer deliveries a week and they have a hard time coming off Main Street because it is too narrow. All of my trucks come off of Memorial Drive (and down Summerfield) to make my deliveries. Then they go up to Grand Avenue when they leave,” he said.
“It’s a shame. James A. Bradley laid out the streets in this city and now they start changing them around. They need to realize that some streets are meant to be commercial and should not be remodeled after residential streets,” he said.
Asbury Park Fire Chief Kevin Keddy said he thinks closing the two railroad crossings will only create more safety problems, not reduce them.
“I do not like them at all. It blocks two more access points across the railroad tracks that we can use, particularly in the summer, when traffic is backed up elsewhere, like on Asbury Avenue. It’s going to take any problems and make it worse,” he said.
Keddy hopes the city is successful in getting NJT decision reversed.
City Councilman John Moor said NJT wanted to close six crossings about five years ago but fire, police, public works and other officials opposed it. He said the DOT is using data from 2009 that has never been updated.
He said the Summerfield Avenue thoroughfare is also heavily used by children going to the Thurgood Marshall elementary school, off Bond Street.
“We saw that the plans were flawed five years ago. This all hit us by surprise and nobody is happy about it,” he said.
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