Speed: Not ‘King’ of the road



By Ron Leir


Driving on King Street? S L O W D O W N! Residents on the east-west corridor say enough’s enough and they want the town to accelerate into taking action to stop the errant motorists who, they say, are using that route as a speedway.

“If something is not done,” resident Laura Santos warned the governing body last Tuesday night, “I don’t want to be the one to come here and say, ‘I told you so.’

’’Ellen McLaren, who lives at King and Hickory Sts., recalled the time a driver plowed through her front lawn, crashing into her porch. “That’s what I fear happening (again),” she said. “The street is very narrow,” pointed out Dorothy Marflak. “Nobody wants to slow down.” And many times, impatient motorists “take out a lot of mirrors off cars” as they drive by, she said.

Kathleen DeRay said she’s seen cars and trucks “fl ying around” the intersection at Schuyler Ave. and King St. Her car, parked at King and Ivy St., a block in from Schuyler, “got hit four times in the last two years.”

And, from her vantage point on her porch, near the Schuyler crossing, Rose Awwad said she’s witnessed a number of hit and runs, including one vehicle that whacked her friend’s parked van.

In considering the residents’ demand for relief, Mayor Alberto Santos said that virtually every street in Kearny has issues with careless drivers and that the town has employed varying strategies to deal with the situation, ranging from speed humps to four-way stops to police enforcement.

Typically, Santos said, the Police Department will do a traffic survey of a particular street to determine how serious a problem exists.

For King Street, Police Chief John Dowie said the department found that on the basis of a survey done in August 2010, 85% of the traffic followed the 25 mph speed limit although there were exceptions to that pattern.

On days when there is no street sweeping and cars are parked on both sides of King St., it can be tough for vehicles approaching from opposite directions to negotiate the right of way, Dowie said.

That can be particularly difficult, Dowie said, when an SUV and a big truck hauling dirt and construction debris from the Kearny High School renovation site come together. Somebody has to back up and let the other driver pass, he said.

Dowie said the contractor at the high school job site has cooperated by diverting trucks to Davis Ave. and then to Midland and/or Bergen Aves., which are wider and offer more room to maneuver.

After hearing from the town’s consulting engineers what options might be available to help curtail would-be speeders, Santos recommended for the council’s consideration, installation of non-blinking, four-way stop signs – each sign measuring about 3 feet-by-3 feet – along King St., between Hickory and Ivy Sts.

The same strategy has worked at the intersection near Schuyler School, Santos said. “I think it will be effective (on King St.).”

Third Ward Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle suggested that a police presence – at some point – could also be helpful, if the chief had anyone available.

For the time being, the governing body voted to introduce an ordinance – up for adoption on Feb. 21 – to authorize the placement of the four-way stop on King St.

When the mayor invited further discussion about speeding issues around town, Tappan St. resident Paul Desousa voiced concern about driving conditions on his block, especially between Schuyler and Davis Aves.

“Every night, it’s horrible,” Desousa said. “Unbelievable.”

Some weeks ago, he said, “a little kid got hit” by a speeding driver but, fortunately, the child wasn’t seriously hurt. Dowie, recalling the incident, said the culprit was a juvenile operating a stolen car.

Aside from the safety hazards, Desousa said, residents are awakened in the early morning hours – between midnight and 2 or 3 a.m. – by the loud noise from the speeding vehicles. “Some of the cars don’t have catalytic converters for their mufflers,” he said. “You can’t sleep.”

Second Ward Councilwoman Madeline Peyko, who lives on the block, readily agreed. “You feel like it’s a drag strip,” Peyko said. “You sit there and wait for a crash. They have to be doing 60, 70 miles an hour.”

And, Desousa reminded the council, “there are no stop signs” on that stretch of Tappan to warn drivers to slow down.

Santos said the town would review the situation to see what, if any, remedy could be applied there.

Another intersection that the town targeted for enforcement is Bennett Ave. and Pleasant Place near a town playground. Dowie said a police traffic detail has been assigned to that location for the past few weeks since the loss of a crossing guard previously assigned to that post.

“We’re doing it for the public’s education and to see if concerns about safety were borne out,” Dowie said. “It is a hill street, newly paved and a conduit to avoid traffi c on the Belleville Turnpike. We have issued some (speeding) summonses. So we feel there is some credence about those concerns.”

Other intersections which, according to Dowie, are no longer covered by crossing guards, are: Chestnut St. and Columbia Ave.; Belgrove Drive and Quincy St.; and Hoyt St. and Kearny Ave.

All are what police categorize as relatively “low-volume” traffic spots, the chief said.

There are no plans to assign replacements at those intersections, Dowie said. “It’s all part of the (personnel) downsizing,” he said, including his own department.

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