Residents Question Central Avenue Light, Upkeep of Town
Westfield residents once again questioned the HAWK light's midblock location, while another asks for improved aesthetics at the train station.
Although it has been nearly two years since the installation of the pedestrian activated HAWK signal on Central Avenue began, several Westfield residents said they will continue to attend Town Council meetings to argue against its midblock location.
Greg Kasko spoke first at Tuesday evening's meeting. Before addressing the light's placement, he asked Mayor Andy Skibitsky, who was absent from the last meeting, if he could answer a question Kasko had posed to acting mayor JoAnn Neylan during that session.
Kasko had asked Neylan what plans the Town has in place should the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grants the Town has applied for not be approved. Kasko said Town Administrator Jim Gildea has made reference to the Town's "plans" previously. At the time, Neylan said, "I hear your question and we will get back to you."
"In the two weeks since, I have not gotten a response," Kasko said. "Can you please tell me what the plans are?"
Approximately 10 seconds of silence followed before Skibitsky said, "Please continue."
Kasko finished his allotted 10 minutes by asking his question again, and again, it was met with silence.
In his statements about the Central Avenue light, Kasko said that he and fellow residents Maria Carluccio and Adina Enculescu, who routinely attend meetings to ask that the light be moved, are not against the light but rather its configuration. Its lines, excessive signs and flashing lights all lead to driver inattention, Kasko said.
Carluccio, a Central Avenue homeowner, also addressed the Council and said that many residents in her neighborhood have stopped using the light because "they don't trust it."
Councilman Sam Della Fera said he has used the light many times without incident. Carluccio and Della Fera went back and forth with Carluccio citing the Union County-commissioned report by Pennoni Associates.
Della Fera said Pennoni's recommendation was to replace the current signal with a more standard signal. Carluccio argued that the light needs to be moved to the intersection of Central Avenue and Clover Street, which is what the report suggests.
The Pennoni report states the following:
"That being stated, considering the roadway characteristics, the relative newness of HAWK signals to the MUTCD and NJ drivers, and taking into account the results of the signal warrant analyses performed, our recommendation is to replace current mid-block HAWK signal with a “standard” signal installation at Central Avenue and Clover Street
"The removal of the HAWK signal and the installation of a “standard” signal at Central Avenue and Clover Street would require a considerable amount of work; including additional signal equipment and providing ADA compliant handicap ramps on all of the corners, without necessarfly providing any measurable improvement in intersection safety.
"A “standard” traffic signal at the intersection of Central Avenue and Clover Street would provide both a 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."
The Council voted 7-1 against Pennoni's recommendations during its Feb. 14 meeting.
Cambridge Road resident Lisa DeCicco asked the Council, how, when it governs on a part-time basis, can it be so certain that it has the "right information" regarding the light.
DeCicco said she didn't like "the process" that took place nor the fact that Enculescu was not informed that the light would be placed in front of her home until the county began "digging up her yard." She also stated that its 15-second activation cycle is not nearly long enough for children, some with bikes, or mothers with strollers, to cross safely.
"This is the wrong type of light, no matter where you put it," she said. "We live and look at it everyday. This is something that really has to be addressed again."
Westfield resident Ross Katz, who was actively involved in the town-wide clean up in honor of Earth Day, spoke before the Council and raised some concerns about the general upkeep of the town, specifically the area surrounding the South Avenue rail station. Katz said the Belgian block needs to be replaced. He also asked if a large shrub that was removed last year had been replaced as he was told it would be. Further, he inquired as to when a staircase that has been roped off for one month would be back in use. On the North Avenue side of the station, Katz said there were two large stumps and two beds that needed maintenance.
Katz also noted some weeds and overgrowth where Central and North Avenues intersect. Describing that area as an entryway into town, he asked that it be addressed.
Councilwoman JoAnn Neylan said the proposed parking changes to Westfield High School are proceeding on schedule. She said the work should be completed by the start of the school year in September.
The next meeting of the Westfield Town Council will begin at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10.