ABSECON — The intersection of Pitney, Mill and New roads has lost a familiar face at the crosswalk, and bigger changes are in store if the city decides to support a state proposal to construct a roundabout at the five-way intersection.
Crossing guard Carol Most, who was stationed at the busy intersection for the better part of 43 years, received an award Thursday night at the City Council meeting upon her retirement.
At the same meeting, consultants working with the state Department of Transportation presented a proposal to redesign the intersection where Most worked.
The proposal falls under the state Pavement Resurfacing Project, which targets certain sections of New Road in Absecon and Somers Point. The state first presented the plan to officials from the two municipalities four months ago, according to Absecon Mayor John Armstrong.
At the first public presentation of the proposal Thursday night, representatives from KMA Consulting Engineers said a roundabout could improve safety, reduce congestion, save money and complement the community’s values.
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Citing information from the Transportation Research Board, they said the roundabout could reduce car crashes by 35 percent and reduce injuries by 76 percent.
Vehicles would only be able to travel as fast as 15 mph in the roundabout, according to the consultants.
Armstrong said he had visited roundabouts in Swedesboro and at the Rowan University campus and felt that these examples, particularly at Rowan, showed the benefits of a roundabout in Absecon.
“I think it presents a much better alternative than the current configuration out there,” he said. “We’ve got a speeding problem out there.”
Members of the public who spoke echoed a desire to reduce speeding at the intersection.
“I live it every day. People go 60-70 mph through that intersection. I will not allow my kids over there,” said Len Becker, who lives on Huron Avenue at the corner of New and Pitney Roads. “So with regards to slowing everybody down. I’m all for it. It’s all about safety.”
Council President Chris Seher pressed consultants on their claim that a roundabout would reduce speeding while reducing congestion.
“What you get is kind of an oxymoron: If we’re going to slow traffic down, slower than it is now, somehow we’re still going to get to the other side faster,” Seher said.
Seher also raised concerns about circular intersections, specifically the state’s role in the 2011 reconstruction of the airport circle at Delilah Road, Tilton Road and Amelia Earhart Boulevard in Egg Harbor Township.
Seher said if a roundabout is the best solution, he wanted to know why the state did not apply the design to the airport circle.
KMA, which was not involved in the airport traffic circle reconstruction, said that unlike that circle, which is bisected by Delilah Road, the one they are proposing for Absecon would have a center island, and there would be no straight-line path through the circle.
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The roundabout would include pedestrian crossings with "splitter" islands dividing each street at the circle entrance so pedestrians would only have to watch out for one direction of traffic at a time before crossing, the consultants said.
Other aspects of the project in Absecon include fixing the stopping distance at Applegate Court, West Church Street and Huron Avenue for better visibility; widening the shoulder of New Road past Ohio Avenue to Bayview Avenue; and fixing the horizontal clearance rate under the New Jersey Transit overhead railroad crossing.
The city has 60 days to adopt a resolution supporting or opposing the roundabout while engineers can still make changes to the plan. If a decision is made to go ahead with the roundabout, the consultants estimated construction could begin sometime in early 2019.
The city plans to put KMA’s presentation online for the public to view. The project will be up for more public discussion at the next council meeting 7 p.m. Dec. 21.