By Ron Leir
A First Ward lawmaker is pressing for four-way stops as a safety measure at several Highland Ave. intersections in Kearny.
But that’s something that won’t happen overnight, if at all.
At a recent Town Council meeting, Councilman Albino Cardoso said that residents had approached him with concerns about drivers speeding, both along and across Highland, one of the town’s north-south arteries.
As examples of some of the more egregious intersections where cars tend not to stop, Cardoso mentioned Afton St., Quincy Ave. and Patterson St.
He also said he’s looking at the entrance to West Hudson Park at Woodland Ave. and N. Fifth St. where, he added, “the traffic coming down Devon St. (toward the park) is going very fast and there’s been a history of accidents. We’ve got to look at what the accident rate is.”
One of the lawmaker’s constituents, Eddie Guerreiro, who has lived near the corner of Highland and Patterson for the past 15 years, agrees that something needs to be done at that location to put drivers on notice instead of watching them sail through the intersection.
“I saw a couple of accidents here at night,” Guerreiro said. Those incidents resulted from cars speeding – east and westbound – on Patterson through Highland, he said.
Currently, there are two stop signs at the intersection, at the northeast and southwest corners.
For motorists proceeding east and west, the visibility at the intersection is bad, especially if cars are parked near the corner, further blocking the view, said Guerreiro.
Morning and afternoon rush-hours become even more of a safety concern, Guerreiro said, “when you’ve got kids from Washington School walking to and from school.”
And, on the north side of the intersection, he added, there’s the Scots-American Club, which draws crowds on weekends, in particular.
Another neighbor, who lives across the street from Guerreiro, said that the existing stop signs aren’t much help.
“People don’t really stop,” he said, “and if they do, they’re already way out into the intersection. I’m guilty of it, too, at times. And it’s all day long. Like with some of the little cars coming up Patterson, the drivers see an incline as they approach the intersection so they give it more gas.”
But maybe a four-way stop would at least prod drivers to pay more attention, the resident said. “Any little bit helps.”
Conditions are “even worse” along Afton St., Cardoso said, particularly on the one-way stretch between Maple St. and Belgrove Dr. where there’s no stop sign and cars push on through.
A check of Kearny Police Department records showed there have been a total of three accidents at Highland and Patterson between 2011 and 2014, three accidents at Highland and Afton during that same period, and six accidents at Highland and Quincy over the past four years, according to research by Sgt. John Taylor of the Traffic Division.
Asking for – and getting – four-way stop signs at designated locations are two different things, Taylor pointed out.
Local police departments are guided in such matters by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), administered by the Federal Highway Administration, which “defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices … including road markings, highway signs and traffic signals … on all public streets ….”
A four-way stop can be implemented, Taylor said, only if certain traffic conditions are met, as per the MUTCD:
“Multi-way stop control is used where the volume of traffic on the intersecting roads is approximately equal.
“The decision to install multi-way stop control should be based on an engineering study.”
The manual says that among the criteria that “should be considered” in undertaking such a study are: whether “five or more reported crashes in a 12-month period” have occurred at a given intersection, whether the vehicular volume entering the intersection from the major street approaches “averages at least 300 vehicles per hour for any eight hours of an average day” and the “combined vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle volume” entering the intersection from the minor street approaches “averages at least 200 units per hour for the same eight hours.”
Other criteria that can trigger the study include whether “… a road user, after stopping, cannot see conflicting traffic and is not able to negotiate the intersection unless conflicting cross traffic is also required to stop” or whether the proposed sign would be located at “an intersection of two residential neighborhood collector (through) streets of similar design and operating characteristics where multi-way stop control would improve traffic [flow].”