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Saturday, June 29, 2013

HAWK Light Installed at Lord & Taylor

     A new pedestrian activated HAWK Light has been installed on North Ave. at Lord & Taylor  This seems to be a reasonable application of the aims of the inventor of this device based on published reports.  This is totally different from the application of a HAWK Light on Central Ave. 
     One of the glaring differences is that the intersecting streets on either side of the Lord & Taylor light are a reasonable distance from the light.  On Central Ave. Clover St. is 113 feet away from the Central Avenue Hawk light.  Hopefully the rate of accidents at Lord & Taylor will be less than at Central & Clover. 
     On Sunday, June 23, 2013 another motor vehicle accident took place on Central Ave. between the HAWK Pedestrian Light and Clover St. 
Since July 2010, when the HAWK light was installed along with all its flashing lights, signs, and extensive painted roadway markings to alert motorists of the pedestrian crossing, there have been 15 motor vehicle accidents on the 113 feet of roadway between the Hawk light and Clover St.   Compare that to 9 accidents that occurred on the same stretch of roadway in the previous eight years leading up to the installation of the mid-block pedestrian crossing.  When you break down the accidents even further, you will find that of the 15 accidents that have occurred in the last 3 years, 11 of the accidents involved vehicles slowing and/or stopping on Central Ave. to make a left turn onto Clover St.  Of the 9 accidents that took place between 2002 and 2009, 7 involved vehicles slowing or stopping on Central Ave. to make the left turn onto Central Ave. 
     At a Westfield Town Council meeting, in 2012, Westfield Town Administrator Jim Gildea stated that there had been a 25% decrease in accidents along the Central Ave. corridor since improvements on the roadway had been made by Union County.  This is a deceiving statement if you isolate the intersection of Central & Clover from the “Central Ave. corridor.” 
     A July 26, 2005 report written by Westfield’s expert consulting traffic safety engineer Gordon Meth, the intersection of Central Ave. & Clover St. is identified as one of eight “hot spots” in need of traffic calming and safety improvements.  The “hot spot” designation to these locations was given by the Westfield Town Council’s hand-picked Citizen’s Traffic Safety Advisory Committee that was formed in 2004 in response to growing concerns regarding traffic and pedestrian safety around Westfield.  In fact, G. Meth’s report states that one of the issues with Central & Clover is, “There is a concern about the difficulty turning left from the east side of Central Avenue, since this traffic has no connection to a roadway with a traffic signal.”
The expert report recommended the following solutions for Central Ave. & Clover St.
·         Cul-de-sac Cambridge at Central Avenue
·         Cul-de-sac Belmar Terrace at Central Avenue
·         Prohibit left turns into or out of Cedar Street during peak hours and school crossing hours
·         Construct a pedestrian activated signal at this location and relocate crosswalk to it
·         Traffic light to be coordinated with Central & Clifton-Sycamore to create gaps for Cedar St. and minimize additional delay to Central Ave.
·         Construct sidewalk along west side of Central from traffic light to Clover
·         Work with the county to lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour within 500 feet in either direction of Central Ave. and Clover Road (by declaring it a “school zone”)
Note:  It would be reasonable to believe that the pedestrian crossing was planned for Central Ave. & Cedar St.  based on the above bullet points extracted from Gordon Meth’s report.
     Following Westfield’s own expert report, Union County asked the engineering firm, the Louis Berger Group, to do a Signal Warrant Analysis report.  The report presented the “methodology and the analysis to perform pedestrian signal warrant study at the Intersection of Central Avenue and Clover Street.”
     The Warrant Analysis Report’s conclusion states the following, “based on above analysis (in the report), School Crossing Warrant 5.0 is satisfied at Intersection of Central Avenue and Clover Street.  The INSTALLATION OF PEDESTRIAN ACTIVATED SIGNAL will certainly improve the safety of elementary school-age pedestrians, within the vicinity of the neighborhood.
     At a town council meeting in 2011, Mayor Skibitsky presented to the public statistics from a report he had obtained from the Westfield Police Department that lists the history of accidents at Central & Clover and Central & Cambridge between 2002-2011. Skibitsky appeared to use the report to support his opinion that the Hawk Pedestrian Light was in the “safest location” and that the number of accidents occurring at these two intersections were not out of the ordinary before and after the Hawk Light was installed. 
     After obtaining a copy of the report Mayor Skibitsky was referencing at the council meeting, and after obtaining each and every accident report listed on Mayor Skibitsky’s report, it was revealed that two accidents occurred in or near a driveways on Cambridge Ave., another took place on the north side of town at the intersection of Mountain Ave. & Orchard St., and yet another accident took place at Central Ave. & Clifton St., nowhere near where Skibitsky had suggested when presenting his apparent faulty data.  When confronted at a subsequent town council meeting about the discrepancies and incorrect data, Mayor Skibitsky responded, “It’s not my report, it’s the police departments report.”  The fact of the matter is that Mayor Skibitsky presented the information as fact without obviously researching the validity of the report and he obviously expected the public to believe him.
     In reviewing each individual accident report listed Mayor Skibitsky’s data report provided to him by the police department it became clear that a common denominator, of a majority of the accidents that occurred on the 113 feet of Central Ave. between the Hawk Light and Clover St., existed.  The common denominator was that vehicles attempting to make a left turn onto Clover St., from Central Ave., where being rear ended, sideswiped, or run off the roadway, more frequently since the installation and configuration of the mid-block Hawk Pedestrian Light with all the blinking lights, flashing warning signs, and extensive painted roadway markings.  Could it be that a distraction to motorists had been created? 
     A contributing circumstance listed by code in a number of the accident reports, obtained through the open Public Records Act, suggests “driver inattention.”  Many motorists have stated that they confused a residential driveway at the Hawk Pedestrian Light as an intersecting street when they slowed in an attempt to make an intended left turn. 
      When suddenly realizing that it was a private driveway and not a street they were turning into, the motorists would speed up and then slow down again for the actual intersecting street of Clover St. not more than 100 feet away.  If you take into consideration that a vehicle moving 35 mph travels 51 feet per second, it takes approximately 2.2 seconds to travel the 113 feet between the Hawk Pedestrian crossing and Clover St.   In fact, it would take less time to travel from the residential driveway, just past the Hawk light, to the intersection of Clover St.   
     Traffic safety experts have studied the reaction time of motorists, calculating a reaction time of .75 seconds.  A motorist following a confused driver  travelling north on Central Ave., at the speed limit of 35 mph., should have a minimum gap between vehicles of three and a half car lengths.  The slowing down at the residential driveway (Hawk Light) thinking it is a street, then speeding up and then suddenly stopping at Clover & Central to make a left turn by a confused motorist gives a following motorist less than 2 seconds to stop and avoid a rear end or sideswipe accident involving the vehicle that is now stopped waiting to make a left turn on to Clover St.
     Ever since the Hawk Light has generated criticism and safety complaints, Mayor Skibitsky has repeatedly stated, “The light (Hawk) is in the safest location.”  However, a report issued to Union County dated December 20, 2011 by the Pennoni engineering firm that did a follow up on the Hawk Pedestrian Light refutes Mayor Skibitsky’s claim.  In the conclusion of the Pennoni report, traffic safety engineers state the following,
·         ”The intersection of Central Avenue and Clover Street met signal warrants and, based on the concern expressed by the community regarding the intersection, the pursuing of a traffic signal at the intersection was practical.”
·         “There is data suggesting that it is an effective form of traffic control for midblock crossings, but there is no data suggesting that the installation of the HAWK signal in a condition such as this is safer for pedestrians than a full “standardized signal” at the nearby intersection of Clover St.”
·          “At intersections with “standard” signals drivers have expectations of potential conflicts and are prepared for the possibility of stopping.” 
·         “A standard traffic signal at the intersection of Central Avenue and Clover Street would provide both the driver and pedestrian with a more familiar form of traffic control.  The standard traffic signal generates implicit expectations regarding signal operations and driver and pedestrian conduct.” “The standard traffic signal is a form of traffic control consistent with other intersections along the corridor and throughout the county.”
     Mayor Skibitsky and the Westfield Town Council were afforded the opportunity to have the pedestrian crossing relocated to its original location, the same location recommended by experts, at Union County’s expense with monies left over from the original cost of the Hawk project.  That time has come and gone.  At present, the New Jersey Department of Transportation is reviewing the project for final inspection and approval. 
     While the intersection of Central Ave. & Clover St. remains a “hot spot” and motor vehicle accidents continue to occur at an alarming rate, Mayor Skibitsky refuses to accept the findings and recommendations of the experts he has repeatedly claimed to have relied on.


1 comment:

  1. yeah.....the first hawk light was so successful put up another.......duh...