Maple Ave. Dead End Issue 'Ruining' One Man's Life
Pine Brook resident said temporary barriers negatively impacting neighborhood as Township Committee continues to consider solution.
As the summer is nearing its conclusion, the Montville Township Committee still has not decided on a permanent solution to dead-ending Maple Avenue, in Pine Brook.
The township began discussing a dead end on the road after residents approached the committee with concerns about motorists speeding through their neighborhood, which is between Route 80 and Route 46. A traffic study was also conducted in the area and confirmed that cars are often traveling on Maple Avenue at a high rate of speed.
Temporary barriers have been in place, blocking the roadway to thru traffic, since July. But one neighborhood resident said the bright orange barriers have affected his quality of life in a negative way and urged the committee Tuesday night to move forward with a permanent solution.
"This is ruining our lives, to be honest with you," Herb Eggers said. "Everybody's giving me the finger because they think I wanted this...Everybody figures this is in front of my house, I wanted it."
Eggers and his wife, Marie, opposed the dead-ending of the street initially, but agreed after former Township Engineer Tony Barile presented a permanent cul-de-sac construction option to the committee that they agreed with. But the pricetag that came with that option was not agreeable to all committee members. The township engineer's office continued to work on a construction solution that would cost less money while the township allocated $60,000 out of the current fiscal year's budget for the project, which included the cost of the temporary barriers and signage marking the street a dead end.
In addition to financial hurdles, two property owners whose commercial properties would be affected by the construction of the cul-de-sac have been hard to get a hold of, according to Assistant Engineer Mark Mantyla. While Mantyla said he has been unable to reach the owner of one of the properties, another owner allegedly did not agree to any type of easements that would allow construction of the cul-de-sac on part of his property.
Mantyla presented the committee with a new, alternative cul-de-sac option Tuesday night which would not need the permission of the property owners. In his presentation, he proposed a cul-de-sac with a 30-foot radius. The total cost of the project proposed Tuesday would be $144,569, although Mantyla said $22,298 included in that cost for curbing and re-surfacing Maple Avenue could be removed.
"Although the township minimum standard is 40 feet, a 30-foot cul-de-sac is adequate for an average car to make that turnaround," Mantyla said.
Also included in his proposal was two extensions on the cul-de-sac for larger trucks to make three-point turns. But Marie Eggers said large trucks are not allowed on the street, as indicated by existing signs, and she did not think the extensions were needed.
"If you're a good truck driver, you can back up anything and you should be able to back up anything," she said.
Mayor Tim Braden agreed and said if a truck driver enters the dead end and then has to back up, they will learn not to do it again.
Marie Eggers said she and her husband were concerned that the cul-de-sac would become a parking area for vehicles. She asked the committee to construct a simple cul-de-sac and add landscaping "just to make it look nice." Like her husband, she emphasized the affect the project has already had on their quality of life in the neighborhood.
"Getting this done as quickly as possible is a major concern to us," she said. "That barrier's an eyesore and it's like rubbing salt in the wounds."
But not all residents who live in the area feel the same.
Sylvia Walits, a resident who has been lobbying for the dead end for several years, was not at the meeting but she described the barriers as "gorgeous" to Patch and said she feels they have made her life and the lives of the neighborhood children better.
"I feel like I was Dorothy and I clicked my heels and life was the way it should have been," she said.
Walits was primarily concerned about the safety of the kids and approached the committee in tears on several occasions, begging for a solution. Even with the temporary barriers in place this summer, Walits said she feels relief.
"It's been wonderful," she said. "I can tell you that these children have had the best summer ever. They've played in the streets without having to look right or left."
Mantyla said since the design of the cul-de-sac has not yet been approved and the project has not yet gone out to bid, it is likely that construction may not start on a permanent cul-de-sac until next spring. Braden said this timeline could have been expected, as the township committee did not expect to make a decision on the design of the cul-de-sac until September. Committeeman Scott Gallopo said he was uncomfortable with how long it will take before a permanent solution is in place, as the committee promised the residents that the temporary barriers would be temporary.
"If we cannot get this done in the fall, bid out and constructed, I'd like to revisit the idea of multiple stop signs," he said.
But Mantyla said he did not think a four-way stop would be an option for the location.
"According to [the state Department of Transportation], you have to meet certain criteria to install all-way stops and, unfortunately, we don't meet any of those," he said.
The criteria, Mantyla said, includes being able to show that there have been at least five accidents at that location within the past year and that a minimum of 300 vehicles pass through the intersection within an hour. According to the most recent data, Mantyla said between 400 and 500 vehicles pass through the intersection within a 24-hour period.
Discussion on the cul-de-sac was scheduled to be continued at the committee's Sept. 11 meeting so that residents who have an interest in the project can be notified.