Posted by OneSkirt on 2016/12/16 9:43:09
Jersey City group touts traffic safety progress, but says there's work to be done

Michaelangelo Conte | The Jersey Journal
on December 14, 2016 at 2:30 PM, updated December 14, 2016 at 6:45 PM

JERSEY CITY -- During a standing room only meeting Tuesday night, local officials and members of a grassroots traffic safety group touted recent efforts to address pedestrian and roadway safety.

"We have asked the city and county government to step up and they have but we also know it's because we have stepped up," said Paul Bellan-Boyer, who founded Safe Streets JC with Kara Hrabosky three years ago.

But group officials were clear that there is more work to be done.

In recent months, there has been growing concern about pedestrian safety on Jersey City streets, especially Kennedy Boulevard. Three people were killed in crashes in a two-week period this year in Jersey City, including an 11-year-old boy who was hit by a bus at Kennedy Boulevard and Neptune Avenue in October.

Safe Streets JC has pushed for a crackdown on speeding and other traffic safety issues. The group's efforts have already resulted in the award of millions of dollars in grant funds to study traffic safety issues and implement changes on Kennedy Boulevard, whose traffic lights have been adjusted to reduce speeding and allow pedestrians more time to cross the four-lane road.

Since local law enforcement ramped up enforcement on Kennedy Boulevard on Oct. 19, nearly 1,200 summonses for moving violations have been issued, including 259 tickets for speeding and 938 for other infractions like reckless driving and distracted driving.

"Enforcement has always been the piece that has been lagging behind and there have been many fatalities, as you know," Hrabosky said at the beginning of the meeting at the Gallo Center in Lincoln Park. She added that Kennedy Boulevard has been named one of New Jersey's most dangerous roads, but also noted that "Our goal is to take this citywide."

With fatalities on the rise, pedestrians will have more time to cross this busy road
With fatalities on the rise, pedestrians will have more time to cross this busy road
Traffic light timing has changed at more than half of Kennedy Boulevard intersections in Jersey City.

Meanwhile, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea, and Hudson County Undersheriff Andrew Conti said there has been an increase in enforcement and summonses issued, as well as a newly formed Jersey City Police Department unit dedicated to traffic safety.

While the meeting focused on motorists, Shea noted that "We do see distracted pedestrians becoming more of a factor in some of these collisions, especially those on cell phones."

Hrabosky also noted that enforcement pays high returns because every car pulled over by a cruiser with flashing lights is seen by dozens, if not hundreds of drivers, who are forced to see the impact of breaking driving regulations.

Those in attendance also heard by those impacted most by roadway tragedies, including Alexis, 14, whose brother, George Gonzalez, 11, was struck and killed by a commuter bus on the Boulevard in October.

"It's just hard knowing I am not going to see him," Alexis said to the crowd of some 120 people. "I am going to grow up without him. In my opinion there should be more crossing guards on Kennedy Boulevard. There's just no one watching."

As officials were discussing the traffic safety crackdown, the boy's mother, Judy Gonzalez, clapped and said "Thank you," causing the room to erupt in applause.

Ato Tuazon, of the our Lady of Mercy Chapter of Jersey City Together, complained of traffic safety issues regarding trucks on Route 440 in the area of Society Hill and Country Village.

"Keep in mind that a seemingly minor and insignificant accident can quickly become a matter of life and death," Tuazon said, noting that crashes can block ambulances, fire trucks and police cars heading to emergencies." He also advocated for a continued traffic safety campaign, rather than the "on and off campaigns we conduct when someone dies in an accident."

Fulop said his administration is committed to improving traffic safety and enforcement and noted that the city plans to hire 30 additional crossing guards. He said an issue with traffic safety on Kennedy Boulevard is the closure of the Pulaski Skyway's northbound lanes, which has led to increased traffic on the roadway.

Safe Streets NJ plans a more interactive meeting in February and another meeting with officials in March.

Elected officials attending the meeting included Hudson County Freeholder Bill O'Dea, Jersey City City Council President Rolando Lavarro and Jersey City Councilwoman Joyce Watterman.

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