The needler in the haystack.

Friday, October 14, 2011

At DQ meeting, rocky road marks start of South Avenue project

Yellow line indicates upcoming removal of bumpout; tree has already been cut down.
Wendy's is at rear left of picture.

When streetlamps must be moved as part of bumpout removal,
as here in front of C-Town, new forms will be poured for bases and old ones removed.

At a Dairy Queen meeting, rocky road marked the start of Plainfield's South Avenue road reconstruction project.

The project is under way, but it started late. There are issues -- signage, traffic flow, economic impact on merchants -- but they are being addressed. There are changes -- the project now appears likely to be broken into two phases: preparation before winter weather sets in; road reconstruction and paving when winter weather breaks.

Members of the Plainwood Square Merchants Association met with representatives of the city and the engineering firm Remington & Vernick Thursday morning to go over some of the bumpy parts of getting the project under way. While they met, the contractor's crews were hard at work up and down the avenue removing the much-maligned bumpouts.

South Avenue is probably more significant as an economic engine for Plainfield's economy than any other section of the city, save the Central Business District.

It is no wonder that the looming disruption of traffic -- and hence business -- makes South Avenue merchants anxious. As was pointed out by Joe Albanese of Dairy Queen, there were weak businesses that went under during the disruption when the streetscape was redone a decade ago.

The merchants are resolved to work hard at keeping customers coming in for the duration, and the city says it is willing to help -- in fact, Economic Development Director Jacques Howard promised flyers for the merchants to distribute to their customers advising of traffic pattern changes.

As you can see from the pictures above, the contractor is already removing the bumpouts. Streetlamps in the bumpouts are being moved back in line with the new curbing and trees in the bumpouts will be removed completely.

Traffic flow throughout the project while work is being done will be ONE WAY EASTBOUND FROM WOODLAND AVENUE TO TERRILL ROAD. When work finishes at the end of each day, the plan is to OPEN THE ROAD TO TWO-WAY TRAFFIC overnight.

It will behoove residents and patrons of South Avenue businesses to be attentive to signs indicating what is going on and to drive carefully.

I will be keeping an eye on the project and making special posts.

The inconvenience to all will be temporary, the improvements for all will be permanent.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Let's hope they get it right this time. Changing traffic flow and patterns can really mess with a businesses ability to get customers in to their establishment. Look at what is happening to Terrill Rd.. While new lights and turn signals were desperately needed, the changing of traffic patterns has really screwed up the flow of traffic during peak times. Every morning traffic is backed up from Rt. 22 to Seventh St because of these new patterns. This has a terrific effect on customers trying to get into & out of businesses along the Fanwood/Scotch Plains side of the road. When people can't get in to your lot, they just drive on by and go else where.

Jeff Scheckner said...

When the bumpouts were first created I did not think it was a great idea. I was present at a FOSH meeting at Muhlenberg Hospital's conference room and when the company creating the South Ave. streetscape first presented the idea. When I raised my concerns, the speaker basically "shut me up" and said if we didn't like it, they would take the program to another town.

The promoters said that by lowering the speed limit to accomodate the bumpouts, more people would take notice of the South Ave. businesses. I would comment that cars drive fast on Route 22 and people seem to notice the businneses there! Also, because South Avenue is a vital link in Route 28, the speed limit should not have been lowered as it was not consistent with neighboring areas where Route 28 traverses. Also I doubt the bumpouts helped increase the motor vehicle volume on South Avenue, it probably curtailed it as two lanes became one lane and a number of parking spots vanished. I believe the theory of the bumpouts and shorter crosswalks they created was to encourage foot traffic and crossing the street from one store to another. When they were first created, one could walk from Chiarelli's or Larry's Deli to the bakery across the street. Now with the Phoenix Academy there, I don't think such a two stop shopping trip is likely.

Finally, I have seen numerous examples of the lamposts being mowed down by innattentive drivers who didnt see the bumpouts. I was once dining with my kids at Wendy's and saw a driver hit a bumpout and her car flipped over--so in essence, they present a traffic hazard. Hopefully the streetscape program will replace the bumpouts with something as attractive but less intrusive to motorists and ultimately enhance the appearance and encourage people to shop in the fine businesses on South Avenue.

Jeff Scheckner
Community Engagement Manager for United Way of Greater Union County

Anonymous said...