Traffic control, parking, and pedestrian safety were the top issues of the semi-annual Collingswood town forum Tuesday night, as borough commissioners met with local residents for an open discussion at the Scottish Rite ballroom.
Conditions on Comly Avenue were top-of-mind at the beginning of the evening. In May, the borough won a $200,000 municipal aid grant from the state department of transportation for the resurfacing of that roadway, but the work was delayed by having to rebid the job.
Mayor James Maley informed residents that the borough had just authorized a $226,000 contract for the resurfacing of Comly to Paramount Enterprises, Inc. of Cherry Hill.
'They’re blowing through stop signs, texting, checking Facebook'
After that, the talk turned from the state of the roadways in Collingswood to the distracted and impatient habits of the drivers who travel them.
A resident whose special-needs child boards a bus every morning at the corner of Park and Collings Avenues complained that although that corner is very busy, motorists make boarding the bus a harrowing endeavor for her.
“We have a problem all the time with people blowing by his bus, stoplight out, lights flashing, honking at the bus if it takes them too long to get him in his seat,” the woman said.
Maley pointed out that stop-sign scofflaws are a problem throughout the borough, and asked Police Chief Richard Sarlo to look into it.
But short of targeted enforcement, which Maley said should increase as borough police assign a new traffic detail, the problem lies in asking residents to change their behavior.
“Know that when the cops pull these folks over, it’s not people from Mt. Laurel at 7:30, 8:00 in the morning,” Maley said. “It’s us. They’re blowing through the stop signs and they’re texting, checking Facebook.”
Maley asked that residents notify officials of particular problem areas so that enforcement can increase.
“We’ve got problems with people blowing stop signs everywhere,” he said. “It’s so bad we have to have so many more people out.”
Calming traffic on Haddon Avenue
Residents asked about pedestrian safety in the downtown business district, particularly regarding planned traffic-calming measures, including “the famous fountain” planned for the Collings at the LumberYard project, Maley said.
“It’s like a reverse bump-out,” the mayor said. “It slows traffic. The tendency is, for most people, when the road narrows in some way, you slow down.”
Maley said the project could roll out between Powell Lane and Harvard Avenues as early as the spring, depending upon how construction at the housing development progresses.
From widening the sidewalk to allowing parking only on one side of the thoroughfare to the bump-outs constructed in front of the high school, Maley said the borough has considered various traffic-calming measures to improve pedestrian safety in the downtown shopping district.
“Some folks have suggested speed bumps,” Maley said. “I know from talking to other towns, the noise it makes for folks, that’s even worse than the risk.”
The mayor also told a story about how the borough had even once considered beautifying Haddon Avenue with a paved island down the middle of the roadway, full of trees.
“But then the world changed, and we’re trying to keep money around to pick up trash and stuff,” Maley said.
“The one thing that’s done really well is the parklet,” he said. “There might be more of those down the road.”
Alas, for drivers who not only slow, but park their cars on Haddon Avenue, there's no hope of returning to the days of free parking for the first 10 to 15 minutes of a stop, Maley said.
"The machines won’t allow us to do it," he said. "It’s purely mechanical."
Finally, for those interested in a word of progress in the purchase of The National Food Market by the Merchantville-based McFarlan’s Market, Maley said the deal is still alive.
Owners Janet Stevens and Pete Burgess are "still interested," the mayor said.
"That prospect is still alive and we’re working with them," he said. "They’re going through SBA and there’s a whole lot of stuff they’re doing.
"It’s a seven-digit investment," Maley said. "It’s a big deal."