Keep drivers on the highway

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:16

    Shortcuts don’t cut it with residents of Ridgewood Avenue and Walsh Road,By Mark J. Yablonsky FRANKLIN — Ridgewood Avenue and Walsh Road connect at a spot in town just across Route 23 from commercial giants Shop-Rite, Wal-Mart and Burger King, among others. That area has been the focal point of distress for several years as residents along both small streets claim their roads are used as shortcuts by aggressive drivers seeking to save time getting to and from the businesses that line Route 23. Borough officials are looking to solve the problem within the next several weeks or months, depending on whether the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) will have to be consulted. Any plans that affect Route 23, a state highway, would have to go through the DOT. Borough council’s public safety committee, chaired by Mark Zschack, was scheduled to have met last week, possibly at the site itself, to bring a plan before council by April 14. Most agree that the sorts of traffic problems affecting both local roads mirror what goes on at many residential intersections with the busy Route 23 corridor. For example, when the Rutherford Avenue/Route 23 intersection was changed to one-way status six years ago — with cars now only able to enter the highway — Route 23 motorists began using other residential streets to get off Route 23, including nearby Master Street. A lot of that traffic often entered the smaller residential side roads at a higher rate of speed than the mandatory 25-mph limit. Residents’ complaints concerned the safety of schoolchildren and pedestrians. “And that will be a topic when we talk,” Zschack said in reference to the fact that the closing or limited access to one road off of Route 23 can often transfer the problem to another area. Recently, the council asked borough administrator Richard R. Wolak to provide a study of alternatives to alleviate the congestion on both Ridgewood and Walsh. Among the solutions suggested: mandatory speed reduction changed or added signage on Walsh limited road closures during school hours reconfiguring traffic in and around the school building itself restricting traffic entering from Route 23 onto Walsh Road, which would need DOT approval. Wolak explained some of these proposals in an interview last week. Not Washington Avenue One other alternative was to reopen Washington Avenue, near the school. But just the mention of this idea brought fierce opposition from many, including school superintendent Dr. Tom Turner, former school board president Wayne Yahm and Zschack, who is also a former school board president. Washington Avenue was closed years ago because of safety concerns at Franklin Elementary School. With Washington Avenue closed from Route 23, the school no longer has to deal with traffic exiting directly past the school from Route 23. “I do not support opening Washington Avenue,” said Zschack emphatically. Wolak agrees that the controversial alternative is “off the table.”