Letters circulate in favor, against Washington Street plan; meeting to discuss redesign to be held tonight in Hoboken

HOBOKEN – Two letters were circulated in Hoboken on Sunday, Feb. 7 in favor of and against the plan to narrow Washington Street and make way for bicycle lanes on each side.

The first letter, from Bike JC, supports bike lanes on the busy thoroughfare to improve safety and business. The second, from the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, argues that Hoboken businesses will suffer as a result of the proposals to alter the 17-block street.

In nine days the City Council will vote on the current proposal, to improve the safety of the city’s most dangerous street, according to city officials. Instead of a wide Washington Street with two lanes that enable double parking, the street will have one lane going north and the other south, one bicycle lane on each side, and two lanes for parking.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer says the plan, which will shorten the 17 feet of travel lanes on each side to 11 feet, will boost business.

But President of the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, Richard Mackiewicz, wrote a letter to fellow business owners referring to a “hastily convened” meeting held Friday, Feb. 5 where a planner presented the proposed changes.

“Of those who spoke not a single favorable comment was made,” Mackiewicz writes in the letter that was sent to Hoboken businesses Feb. 7. “The common theme: The redesign fails to account for how Washington Street functions in the real world. Though the presenting engineers were cordial, they were hamstrung, being unable to confidently say the guidance provided last Friday by Washington Street’s day-to-day users would be incorporated into a final design.”

Attendees largely agreed that the plan should not incorporate bike lanes, that double parking is not an issue that needs mending, and that changes will ultimately deter customers from coming to the city.
One local organization supports the bike lanes.

Bike Hoboken, which has mounted roughly 200 signatures, says online, “As the first step toward a friendlier street for everyone, we are supporting protected bike lanes for Hoboken’s Washington Street Redesign: bike lanes that are off the sidewalk, next to the curb, off the road, and protected by parked cars.”

In a letter to the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, Hoboken City Council, and The Hudson Reporter, Tony Borelli of Bike JC, says it also supports bike lanes.

“Many of our own members frequently cycle to Hoboken to work, shop, study, and dine, and to otherwise enjoy—and support—Hoboken’s economy and culture,” he writes in the letter. “Yet despite the city’s pioneering installation of bike lanes on many streets, Jersey City cyclists consistently report fear and avoidance of Washington Street, which totally lacks those amenities.”

The proposed redesign also includes loading zones, new traffic signals, bus “bump-outs,” ADA ramps, curb cuts for pedestrian safety, new LED lights for light poles, new water mains, and road repaving.
A special City Council meeting will be held tonight, Feb. 8. to hear the public’s comments on the redesign plan. Those who cannot attend can visit www.hobokennj.org/council/live to watch the meeting live online.

The plan will be up for final vote at the City Council meeting on Wed., Feb. 17. Read our full story on the Washington Street plan by searching “Word on Washington St.” at www.hudsonreporter.com and send your thoughts to srodas@hudsonreporter.com. – Steven Rodas

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