Some Unhappy with Irvine Turner Plan

Project to Make Street Safer not Sitting Well with Residents

A plan to “calm” traffic along Irvine Turner Boulevard has instead riled up many residents of the area, members of the Newark Municipal Council said during a city hall meeting yesterday.

But city engineering officials countered that the project, which was first proposed in 2003, will leave the area far safer for both pedestrians and motorists when it’s completed in November.

Work on the $5 million project began in January 2011 and involves Irvine Turner Boulevard from Clinton to Springfield avenues, Jones Street between Springfield and South Orange avenues and Norfolk Street between South Orange Avenue and West Market Street.

Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif said yesterday that residents of the area, especially seniors living in the Grace West Manor homes near Irvine Turner and Avon Avenue, call his office “daily” to complain about the project, under which a median barrier, raised intersections, bike lanes, new sidewalks and new signals are being built. The project is intended to make Irvine Turner safer by regulating the traffic on the roadway, which cuts through a residential area and is used by motorists to travel between I-78 and downtown.

Of particular concern for council members are the medians, which are designed to encourage pedestrians to use crosswalks instead of crossing at random points along the wide, well-traveled throroughfare, a practice which for years has led to accidents.

But residents of Grace Manor have expressed concern that the median will make it difficult for emergency vehicles to turn into the complex, Sharif said. Although the project was reviewed and approved in 2006 by various stakeholders -- including residents and first-responders -- Sharif said the design should be modified to include a gap in the median near Grace West so emergency vehicles have easy access.

“I can’t accept that because it wasn’t approved then we can’t address it again,” Sharif said.

“I blame myself for not asking the right questions in 2006,” said Councilwoman-at-Large Mildred Crump, who belonged to the council while the project was being reviewed. Yesterday Crump -- who like Sharif also said she has been getting many complaints from residents of the area -- suggested an ordinance requiring artist’s renderings be included with any project up for approval so residents and officials can get a better sense of the final result.

“Nobody had any idea other than you all knew what it was going to look like,” Crump said yesterday while addressing staff from the engineering department. “People in the area are incensed.”

Jack Nata of the city’s engineering department responded that it might not be possible to make major modifications to the project now, because funding guidelines require the city to largely stick to the plan it had submitted several years ago. Addressing concerns about first-responder access, Nata also said that representatives of the police and fire departments, as well as representatives from area hospitals, took part in the vetting process in 2006 and approved the Irvine Turner improvements.

Nata added that while traffic flow might now be impeded as the project is underway, once construction is completed, traffic should flow far more smoothly. Among the features that will calm traffic are signals that will be wired into a control center, allowing staff to directly manage the lights’ timing.

The work in the Irvine Turner area is part of a $27 million plan to improve roadways and sidewalks throughout the city this year. Among those projects are the installation of 65 “speed humps” in the West Ward as well as corner “bump outs” which will shorten the distance pedestrians have to travel to cross the street. Also included is a $1.2 million streetscape improvement plan along Ferry Street in the East Ward, a $1.8 million streetscape project along Broad Street, and a $4.7 million renovation plan at Mt. Prospect Avenue and Lower Broadway. In addition, 18 streets throughout the city will be resurfaced.

N A Brown May 02, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Hey Nata, Seems as though you just did a SPEED BY the issue of First Responder Vehicles not being able to gain entery at Grace West Manor with the current design. Back to that issue please! It is clearly understood that "traffic will flow far more smoothly" (evading the issue) once the project is completed. Since you suggested that the bufget does not allow for redirect, I suppose you are also suggesting that Newark's budget will allow for the forthcoming suits against the city if we do not correct this now. How about being proactive and addressing the issue instead of SPEEDING PASS IT. (yes we noticed-Newarkers can read) How does it matter who agreeded to the plan originally. To continue with the information we currently have sets us up for failure.
Ruth Hoernig May 03, 2012 at 01:57 PM
One of the worst of many asinine traffic changes made in Newark in the last 7 years! Just forget trying to get to the airport on time if you live here in the city. Add this to the mess at the intersection by UMDNJ created by our geniuses in the traffic department.
Jose Mediavilla July 18, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I am not a resident, but I have been commuting along Irvine Turner since 2006, and I have to agree, this is one of the biggest civil engineering blunders I have ever seen. Since the number of lanes has effectively been cut in half along most of its length, it has greatly slowed down traffic. Moreover, drivers are taking advantage of the "islands" to make U-turns in the middle of the street. And the ever-present jay-walkers now have even more incentive to dart across the street, since they have a convenient stopping point halfway. I can't wait for the trees to be installed, so it can give them a secure hiding spot to jump out from. But that will be a while, since the project manager I called and spoke to a few weeks ago to ask what the holdup was told me "we don't plant trees in summer." That same fellow used the phrase "traffic calming" when he tried to argue on behalf of the project, and also told me it had been agreed on by community consensus. Well, I hope he reads this damned article and sees that I wasn't alone when I told him it was the worst thing they could have possibly done. On a personal note, it seems there is a "conspiracy" to lengthen my commute. I used to be able to take the exit off 78 and get right on Irvine Turner, until they blocked that approach. Like others, I used to make the U-turn until I got a ticket and had to go to traffic court. Since then I have to go on Elizabeth and make a series of turns to get back on Irvine. And now this. What's next?
Jose Mediavilla July 18, 2012 at 05:17 PM
"Of particular concern for council members are the medians, which are designed to encourage pedestrians to use crosswalks instead of crossing at random points along the wide, well-traveled throroughfare, a practice which for years has led to accidents." I agree this is a huge problem, and I have never seen such a high degree of jay-walking as I have in Newark. In fact, I would even call it "sidewalk aversion", since oftentimes you will see pedestrians walking alongside the curb when there is no visible reason why they wouldn't just move over 1-2 feet and get on the sidewalk. But I fail to see how the medians are going to discourage this. Maybe if the ubiquitous Newark police started issuing citations for jay-walking, they would have discouraged the practice at mich less cost to the city, without ruining what was once one of the best approaches into and out of the city.
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