By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
The Asbury Park City Council has agreed to a redesign of Main Street, which eliminates one lane in each direction, at Wednesday night’s meeting to the applause of many of the Complete Streets Coalition, which has been advocating for two years for the plan.
The two year project is expected to begin after Labor Day and Moor said one of the deciding factors in agreeing to the plan is the state’s agreement that after two years, if the city does not like the results, the street will be repainted to its current traffic pattern.
There will be no islands built in the center of the street like there are in Avon.
Mayor John Moor said last week there had been ongoing negotiations with the New Jersey Department of Transportation over the past year after the council unanimously rejected the initial DOT plan.
“They came up with a plan that we could all agree on,” Moor said.
Pam Lamberton, a member of Complete Streets, spoke during public comments saying she knows not everyone on the council approved of the Road Diet but assuring them it would all work out.
“I know three people on the council don’t like it…but it’s going to be wonderful for our city,” she said.
Tracy Rogers, Summerfield Avenue, said, “I help people cross the street…old people with baskets. I know people who are afraid to cross Main Street.”
Diana Pittet called installing the Road Diet an “equality issue,” that will provide a safe connection between the east and west sides of town.
The proposed road diet calls for having one lane in each direction with left turning lanes in the center at each light.
Moor said the DOT presented (traffic) numbers at a meeting in March in Trenton that convinced the governing body that they could move forward with the new plan DOT presented.
The new plan includes the stretch from Cookman Avenue to Deal Lake Drive heading south, but keeping north of Cookman Avenue to Route 33 as it currently is.
Moor said the numbers of cars using the south end of town require having the two lanes in each direction.
The mayor also said that the state will determine where bus stops will be.
“The first plan was a horrible plan; there were no bus stops,” Moor said.
The city, he said, will be charged with deciding where the loading zones will be.
The Complete Streets Coalition has been dogged in its determination to see the Road Diet put in place and now has a website dedicated to it.
“Comments from Complete Streets were definitely a factor,” Moor said.
But he emphasized the good working relationship between the city and state representatives.
“They solved all our concerns, as far as let’s try it as a pilot program,” Moor said.
“Our main concern was public safety and getting the police and fire vehicles up and down Main Street,” he said.
Moor said there will be a preemptive button on the street lights that emergency officials can hold to allow the vehicles to be unimpeded by traffic lights.
He also said the new plan has been reviewed by department heads and all are happy with the changes made by DOT.
“They are the paid professionals who will be affected by this,” he said.
Director of Transportation Michael Manzella said the new plan is very much in keeping with Complete Streets Coalitions’s ideas. He also said there will be a delineated bicycle lane in each direction.
“That’s important to our north south connection and our bicycle network,” he said.
Manzella said the city will be looking at creating a bicycle master plan with the help of the recently received DOT Technical Assistant Grant.
“It’s a commercial district and anything that will calm traffic helps. Introducing other modes of transportation will help circulation,” he said.
Bump-outs, or curb extensions will also be included at some intersections to improve pedestrian safety.
Manzella said they will be installed at spots where the most pedestrian accidents occur.
Moor said another deciding factor to approve the new plan was the DOT’s agreement to return to the city and repair the bump-outs, should they be broken during snow plowing.
“They absolutely took a terrible plan and made it a workable plan, Moor said.