Safer, better-looking crosswalks come to Belleville

The members of the Belleville High School Arts Club used semipermanent paint that should last at least several months. Chuck O'Donnell | Jaffe Communications

The girl in the blue hoodie feigned as if she was going to brush some pink paint onto her friend’s Chuck Taylors.

“Hey, quit it,” the friend said with a laugh.

It was a light-hearted moment, but the 20 or so members of the Belleville High School Arts Club who were helping paint a cherry blossom on the pavement at Holmes and High streets last week understood the importance of their work.

The brightly colored, highly visible symbol of Belleville stretching across the asphalt was created with temporary paint and designed to slow motorists as they approach the intersection adjacent to Belleville Middle School.

Along with painted bump outs, repainted crosswalks and other important touches, these enhancements are intended to create a safer experience for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

The Belleville School District under the leadership of Schools Superintendent Richard Tomko has collaborated with the municipal Green Team on the “Crosswalks for a Safer Community.”

The demonstration project was created through Belleville’s participation in the Complete Streets Technical Assistance Program, funded by a grant through the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.

“The Green Team is grateful to receive this project assistance and understand as a community we must all work together to increase awareness of crosswalk safety for pedestrians and develop safe habits driving in these critical areas,” said Gabrielle Bennett-Meany, Green Team coordinator.

“Our students’ safety is paramount, and we are committed to creating a safe experience for our many students who walk and bike to school,”Tomko said.

A survey may be accessed by going to http://go.rutgers.edu/Belleville to collect input from township residents.

Also, Police Chief Mark Minichini said the Belleville Police Department will be comparing traffic data near the intersection collected before and after the creation of the demonstration project.

If the improvements are successful, they could become permanent, and inspire similar installations at other locations in Belleville. A printed report showing how the enhancements worked could be submitted by the school district and township in applications for further grant money.

The safety improvements could also dovetail into a school travel plan that would create more orderly drop off and dismissal periods at Belleville schools.

The enhancements work in concert. The bump outs — delineated by reflective traffic bollards — will act to extend the sidewalks, thus creating a shorter crosswalk. The bump outs will also narrow the street, which typically makes motorists slow down. The colors of the cherry blossom will alert motorists to instinctively slow down. Repainted latter-style crosswalks will be easier for approaching motorists to see.

Belleville Councilman and Green Team member Vinny Cozzarelli said the hope is the effort leads to a safer intersection, as well as encouraging more students to walk and bike to school.

“One of the Green Team’s core values is sustainability,” he said. “Fewer cars on the road adds up to less greenhouse gas emissions, and that has great benefits for our environment. With warmer weather arriving, it would be the perfect opportunity for students to walk with their friends to school.”

Tomko applauded the students who diligently worked with brushes and rollers for several hours to bring to life the cherry blossom, just in time for the spring bloom.

“At the heart of the project may have been school safety, but I also saw a lot of school spirit,” Tomko said. “The students worked hard and we appreciate their ongoing efforts to fill our schools and our town with art — even on an asphalt canvas.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.