At an intersection that’s already acknowledged as one of the most chaotic in the county, an ongoing problem once again reared its head last week when a tractor trailer making a right turn onto Kennedy Boulevard off of 31st Street in Union City collided with the traffic light pole on the corner. It pulled it off of its moorings and dragged it a full city block before realizing it and stopping.
Union City Mayor Brian Stack has had enough.
“I just don’t understand why it is so hard for the state to take care of this,” said Stack last week. “It’s really a simple matter for the state department of transportation to rectify. All they have to do is move the pole back a few feet. It’s really not a big deal.”
Stack’s frustration with the matter was echoed by local business owner Peter DeGast last week. DeGast owns the International House of Pancakes located at 3196 Kennedy Blvd., just down from the intersection. DeGast is also the head of the Union City Urban Enterprise Zone Development Agency.
“It’s like every couple of months, this happens,” said DeGast. “The pole, I guess, is not high enough, and when the trucks try to make the turn, the trailer catches the light arm and rips the pole right out of the ground.”
Added DeGast, “This routinely closes the boulevard down and it creates a horrific traffic jam. Traffic concerns aside, I am really afraid that someone’s going to get hurt one day. I know the mayor has made several attempts to reach the state, but to no avail.”
Letters obtained by The Reporter show correspondence between Union City Mayor Brian Stack and Hudson County Engineer Bob Jasek as well as letters sent from Jasek to the state DOT.
In one of Stack’s letters to Jasek, dated Dec. 18, 2003, he wrote, “Again, I have received calls from members of the public and from local merchants about the traffic tie-ups, major inconvenience and loss of business due to this frequently occurring situation. This light is at one of the busiest intersections in Hudson County and when it comes down, traffic is backed up for blocks, including traffic on its way to Route 495 and the Turnpike.”
According to Union City Police Department sources, of the 38 accidents at the corner in the last year, eight of them have involved the traffic light getting knocked down by a turning truck.
This number is substantiated by Stack.
Added Stack in the letter, “This is the second time in less than three months that this light has been destroyed. I have lost track of the total number of times it has happened. On Sept. 30, the truck that hit the light dragged the light and pole for more than a block, in traffic, before the truck driver stopped.”
And it is this that worries the mayor the most.
“What if a pedestrian is walking down the street, not even close to the corner, and gets hit by the light pole being dragged by the truck?” he said. “This is a real danger.”
After another knock-down on Jan. 21, Stack fired off another letter to Jasek and simply stated, “I am not going to reiterate here – again – what the problem is with this light. We have gone over that issue too many times.”
In Jasek’s defense, it has been determined that the light pole is owned and maintained by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
In a letter from Jasek to Stack dated Dec. 12, 2003, Jasek wrote, “Please be advised that the traffic signal at [31st Street and Kennedy Boulevard] is owned and maintained by the New Jersey Department of Transportation. We have notified them that the frequency of knockdowns is unacceptable. We will follow up with the DOT to push for relocation of this signal to a better location.”
Calls to both Bob Jasek at the Hudson County Engineers Office were unsuccessful.
However, late last week, New Jersey DOT spokesman Mike Horan stated that the DOT is well aware of the problem and is in the midst of coming up with a solution.
Said Horan, “We are going to redesign the pole to get it out of the way of the traffic. We are going to go out to the area soon and determine where the new location will be. A plan will be made out of that, and then we will figure out where the electric will go. People don’t realize what’s involved with moving a light. It’s actually quite involved. I put the completion of the project about six months off.”
Added Horan, “It will be taken care of.”