Will 2 wheeler deal roll?


Mayor Alberto Santos urged his fellow municipal lawmakers to put the pedal to the medal but most were more inclined to put on the brakes.

What the mayor wanted, though, at last Wednesday’s council session, he ultimately got: a majority vote to apply for a state Department of Transportation grant for a “bicycle share and bicycle lane project.”

Only council members Eileen Eckel and Jonathan Giordano refused to go along for the ride. Councilman Michael Landy was absent.

What the mayor has in mind is a concept that’s been wheeling along in some 40 cities around the U.S. including New York, Jersey City and Hoboken with variations.

“It’s an economic mode of transportation and, a lot of times it’s more efficient [than a car],” said Santos, but with a private operator in play, “volume of usage” is critical to its success.

Assuming the town gets the grant, Santos recommended a “trial usage” until it can determine whether the program will actually gain sufficient traction to justify a full commitment.

But members of the governing body were quick to question whether the project was even doable in Kearny.

First Ward Councilman Albino Cardoso said that Kearny commuters might want to use the bikes to reach the PATH station in Harrison “but that only makes sense if Harrison combines with us” in the project and that may not be so easy to work out.

For Council members Carol Jean Doyle (Third Ward) and Susan McCurrie (Fourth Ward), practicality and traffic flow capacity tended to weigh against the plan.

“Kearny Ave. doesn’t have enough room for a bike lane,” Doyle suggested, given the space taken up by parked cars. What’s more, she said, “who’s going to ride up that hill on Bergen Ave.?”

Said McCurrie: “My caveat is I’m not sure if [the program] fits within the safety of our infrastructure and not reducing [vehicular] parking. I’m not envisioning that it fits really well unless there’s a transit destination.”

McCurrie said she also had concerns about the financial impact of “infrastructure costs and [bike operator] contracts” on the town.

Third Ward Councilwoman Eileen Eckel joined the chorus of naysayers by noting that, “The police department has a hard time now on Kearny Ave. with double-parking cars. With an over-used space, [adding bike lanes] is just piling on.” And, she added, “I don’t see bikes being used by residents here.”

And Second Ward Councilman Jonathan Giordano worried that if people did bike to the town’s shopping centers on Passaic Ave., “they’re all at the bottom of hills – you’re going to end up with a pile [of bikes] at the bottom” because riders will be too tired to return the bikes to an uptown station.”

But fellow Second Ward Councilman Richard Konopka said he’d “like to see baskets” mounted on the bikes for the benefit of biker/shoppers.

Conceding that the town may not have all the answers to reservations voiced by council members, Santos urged them to at least authorize submitting the application to DOT because “the deadline for [filing] applications is tomorrow. Let’s see what happens after that.”

Santos added that, “this is a good discussion to have,” since it will prompt further research into the points raised by the council. And, he acknowledged, “there may not be the demographic in Kearny” to support the volume of usage to justify the program.

Joseph Vuich, a design engineer with Neglia Engineering, the town’s consulting engineering firm that drafted the application, told the governing body that Kearny would seek bids from different vendors to run the program and was planning for 13 bike-share stations at “key locations” around town, with “five to 10” bikes per station.

According to the application filed, four station locations are proposed for Passaic Ave. (shopping district near Belgrove Drive, Riverbank Park at Futsal soccer field, dog park and Norman Doyle Pavilion), one for Belgrove Drive (Veteran’s Field near Bergen Ave.), six for Kearny Ave. (at Johnston Ave., West Hudson Park near Rose St., Town Hall Park, Midland Ave., Walter Nicol Health Center and Belleville Turnpike) and two for Schuyler Ave. (Harvey Field and Gunnell Oval).

Vuich projected that each station could cost between $35,000 and $50,000 to run so the overall price could reach as much as $500,000 a year. Typically, he said, the town would look to get a three- to five-year maintenance contract with the operator.

“There would be a trial period of one year with options for renewal,” he said.

“[The] project must receive federal [DOT] authorization within two years of the date that the applicant is notified of project selection. If the project is not authorized within two years of the notification, the grant will be rescinded and the applicant will have to reapply,” according to the grant terms.

Once approvals are granted, it would take at least eight months before the project could actually begin operating. Total project cost is projected at $781,550.

To help offset the cost, Vuich said, the town could try to make deals with local businesses to place advertisements on the bikes or bike stations.

DOT Transportation Alternatives grants of the type Kearny is seeking can run from $250,000 up to $1 million, depending on the scope of the municipal program, Vuich said.

In another transportation-related matter, the council received another Neglia report recommending a one-year “interim approach” to proposed traffic flow changes to Peden Terrace, currently a two-way east-west street between Belgrove Drive to Passaic Ave.

This plan would maintain Peden as two-way and upgrade street lighting as needed, prohibit parking 20 feet from the Belgrove intersection, re-stripe the Belgrove intersection for “Do Not Block The Box” and install a stop bar at the Belgrove southbound approach to better manage traffic queues associated with the Halstead St. traffic signal, post Peden for “No Commercial Traffic” to discourage delivery vehicle cut-through from Passaic, post Peden for “No Thru Traffic” at both Passaic and Belgrove approaches, prune street trees as needed so parked cars are not impacted by branches and install a painted parking guideline offset at seven feet from the north and south curb lines to promote parking closer to the curb.

Dialogue with Peden residents will continue at the Nov. 14 council meeting.

The council also voted to introduce a bond ordinance proposing to spend up to $1 million, including $50,000 in professional fees, for a new DPW truck loader, a new DPW snow-blower, repairs to the Davis Ave. fire house, municipal building HVAC improvements and license recognition software with cameras for the KPD.

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