The never-ending stoplight

Lengthy wait persists near light rail station

If you’ve commuted in or out of southern Hoboken, chances are you’ve experienced the dreaded wait time for the stoplight near the Second Street Hudson Bergen Light Rail station.
The light, which has gained a reputation over the years, is located near the station at the bottom of County Road 681 that transforms into Paterson Avenue on the way to Hoboken.
Drivers also need to pass the intersection when they head to downtown Jersey City or Jersey City Heights.
The light, which is located in the 4th Ward of town, a densely populated area that contains many of the city’s housing projects, can take up to eight minutes to change, according to city officials.
It can be such a nuisance that it’s not uncommon to see an impatient driver pulling a U-turn after idling for what can seem like ages and heading toward the 14th Street Viaduct on the north side of town instead.
Although they don’t see eye to eye on all issues, outgoing 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti and Councilman-Elect Ruben Ramos Jr., are on the same page in regard to this ongoing issue, and have brought it up at public meetings.

Issue first raised in 2011

“I’ve been raising this as an issue since 2011,” said Occhipinti last week. “When a traffic light is red for 8 minutes, how many people do you need to see creating a hazardous condition before something is done?”
New Jersey Transit officials acknowledged that they conducted a study on the area to determine ways to alleviate traffic backups.

“As for that stoplight, it causes a big bottle neck and you don’t need a study to figure that out.” – Ruben Ramos Jr.
But they would not provide information about the study, even the date it was conducted. They said it “was for internal work product” and not public.
“I’m happy New Jersey Transit has finally recognized the issue, but we need a solution to be implemented as soon as possible,” said Occhipinti.
NJ Transit did explain why the light can take so long to change.
In practice, the stoplight may near the end of its brief cycle to change back to green – and then, suddenly, a light rail train approaches.
“NJT has been monitoring conditions at the rail crossing and recently implemented several technical and operational adjustments to help safely improve traffic conditions at this complicated intersection of streets, which has experienced increased traffic congestion in recent years,” said NJ Transit Senior Public Information Officer, Jim Smith.
When asked whether this was an issue at any other Hudson Bergen Light Rail station, Smith said it is unique to the intersection.
He noted that in the past 6 to 12 months, NJ Transit has implemented recommendations from the study they conducted, including tweaking the signal timing.
But, he said, “because of how complicated the intersection is, more work needs to be done for a final solution.”
The issue often occurs during peak hours, he said.
In the future, Smith added, officials from Hudson County, Hoboken, Jersey City and the Department of Transportation will convene to discuss more changes. The meeting has not yet been set.
“One of the first things I’ll do in office is to reach out to NJ Transit to get that time reduced by 50 percent,” said Ramos Jr., who often faces the stress of a having to wait for the light when heading to work as a teacher in Paterson. “Part of my campaign was addressing traffic on Jackson Street and traffic coming west on Observer Highway. As for that stoplight, it causes a big bottleneck and you don’t need a study to figure that out. Human experience tells you what the study is, and it needs to be fixed.”
Ramos feels it is “unacceptable” for the issue to have been raised four to five years ago and remain unsolved.
Over the years, there have been improvements made to the area, but not recently. When Mayor Dawn Zimmer was the councilwoman in the 4th Ward in 2009, she was part of an effort to install a new electric sign at the accident-prone corner that flashed “Train coming” to warn oncoming drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Police did not return calls by press time regarding safety problems at the intersection.

Steven Rodas can be reached at

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