Worth a pilot?

Program to alleviate Jackson Street traffic jams put under the scope

A 90-day pilot program to study traffic patterns on Jackson Street may help solve a recurring bottleneck on the southwest street between Newark Street and Observer Highway.
In 2012, Jackson Street ceased to function as a two-lane street when the City Council voted to place parking on the east side. A year later the city added a bike lane near the center of the road.
During rush hour, the single lane causes traffic backups for drivers entering Hoboken from the south via Jersey Avenue and turning left onto Jackson, or heading out of the city and making a right toward Observer Highway.
The pilot program would paint over the bike lane and prohibit parking on the east side of the street from 7 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.

“If it doesn’t work we’ll revert back to what’s there now…but it’s worth a shot.” – Ruben Ramos
Fourth Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos has been working to get a resolution on the agenda since January. Ramos told The Hoboken Reporter that following a Transportation Subcommittee meeting last Wednesday he was under the impression that a resolution to vote on the program would be on the agenda for the council meeting on March 16.
But it was not.
“When I leave a room with my council members…and come out with an agreement [that] something’s going to be on the agenda…and I don’t see it on the agenda on Friday, it is somewhat disheartening,” Ramos said at the council meeting.
(Ramos is a sometime political opponent of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, whom he may face in the next mayoral election.)
Council President Jen Giattino, who was not at the subcommittee meeting, said she did not receive direct correspondence from 1st Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco (who was absent from Wednesday’s meeting) or Ramos in regard to the agenda item. She invited Ramos to introduce the resolution, which is now expected for the next council meeting on April 6.

Mayor believes program could be dangerous

Mayor Dawn Zimmer says she doesn’t feel the pilot study is the answer to solving Jackson Street’s traffic issues.
“While I recognize the frustration of drivers, I believe that the proposed changes, without proper study, will create an unnecessarily dangerous situation,” Zimmer wrote in a letter to the council dated March 16.
Zimmer notes in the letter that in 2012 a petition from residents prompted the installation of a traffic light at the intersection, which has decreased the crash rate at the junction by 46 percent. She says residents have commended the reconfiguration but the allowance of the additional lane (during certain times) could create a safety hazard or make the city liable if not done with a proper engineering study.
Zimmer suggested the possibility of implementing phases II and III of the Madison Street Reopening Plan from 2012 as a solution. That plan would provide additional access to the southwest by allowing cars to continue straight up Madison Street or make a left on Observer Highway.
At the Southwest Redevelopment Plan community meeting last week, Jason and Kelly Reina, a couple who live in the area of Jackson, said the traffic flow is better with two lanes.
However, one resident at Wednesday’s council meeting was skeptical of the plan for its disregard of cyclists.
“I don’t know that [the pilot] is necessarily the answer,” said Christine Adair during the public comments portion. “What disturbed me the most about that potential is that after seeing everything that transpired over potential bike lanes on Washington Street, it feels like there’s a little bit of a disregard for bicycles and bicycle lanes, and I worry that cars are the primary focus.”
Last month, the council approved an amended plan to redesign Washington Street. The new plan removed protected bike lanes on the 17-block street way, instead placing on-street bike lanes downtown and would possibly add “sharrows” uptown north of Eighth Street.
In response to the mayor and Adair’s uncertainty of the program, Ramos said that it comes at no cost to taxpayers and is worth a try. He also echoed sentiments from resident Hany Ahmed who said a bicycle lane on Jersey Avenue currently exists to accommodate riders in that area.
Ramos emphasized that safety measures, such as the addition of a traffic control officer at Jackson and Newark Streets, are part of the plan.
“If it doesn’t work we’ll revert back to what’s there now…but it’s worth a shot,” said Ramos.

Steven Rodas can be reached at srodas@hudsonreporter.com.

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