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March  21

This Just In...

More news centered around Watchung Plaza; this time, it's the take-your-life-in-your-hands gamble that occurs when trying to cross the street at this most perplexing of intersections. A flyer slipped under my door this morning, from two of my neighbors, reads as follows:

Dear Neighbor:

Since the accident involving our young child at Watchung Plaza last year, we have become increasingly concerned about safety. We believe that something needs to be done to allow people to cross at the corner of Watchung Avenue and Park Street (at the gas station) safely. I contacted Asif U. Mahmood, senior engineer with the Essex County Dept. of Public Works, division of engineering. Apparently Watchung Avenue is under the jurisdiction of Essex County and not the Township of Montclair. Mr. Mahmood met with me and toured the area. He took lots of digital photos. When crossing the street, he was almost hit by a car -- so I know he must have understood the problem. He suggested maybe placing "yield signs" in specific areas and repainting the "hash marks." My wife and I believe something more drastic needs to be done to force cars to not simply yield to pedestrians, but actually stop their cars to allow us to pass. I am asking that you contact Mr. Mahmood and voice your concerns. I believe the more people he hears from about the problem, the more likely attention will be given to the problem.

To e-mail Mr. Mahmood, click here. (link fixed)

March 21, 2005 in Only in Montclair | Permalink


Watchung Plaza is particularly hazardous. I was so surprised that the recent renovations there did not include a traffic light, or a large "Yield to Pedestrians" sign. Another bad corner is Grove and Walnut. On Saturday night, my husband and I ate at One 15 (featured last week on Barista). In addition to the good food, we had the adrenaline rush of front row seats to a 3 car accident at the corner of Walnut and Grove. One of the cars was only prevented from jumping the sidewalk and driving through One 15's windows (onto the table where we were sitting) by the fire hydrant on that corner. That car was totalled, two people were injured, and it seemed like the whole Montclair police force came to investigate. According to the ownders, this is the second serious accident that has happened on that corner since One 15 opened.

Posted by: Jessica | Mar 21, 2005 10:41:23 AM

FYI -- there's an error in the link to Mr. Mahmood's email address. It's

You have a "c" instead of an "x" for essex in your link.

Posted by: Jessica | Mar 21, 2005 10:47:26 AM

yes, jessica is correct. i also couldn't send out the email till i fixed the c to an x, and then it sent out just fine.

Posted by: fran | Mar 21, 2005 10:51:57 AM

I have never had a problem navigating, as a pedestrian, the Watchung intersection. I use the look all ways method.

Darwin will always need places to thin the herd.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Mar 21, 2005 10:54:44 AM

"Darwin will always need places to thin the herd."

Gee, that's a lovely sentiment. The next time I see a toddler hit by a car there I will pass along your thoughtful comment to his or her parents. Or to the next senior citizen I see desperately trying to cross despite beeping horns, screeching brakes, etc.

Something should be done, but I can't imagine that full stops will work or even yields. Then you'll just have lines of cars backed up and people trying to figure out who goes next. I'll be dammed if I know how to fix it.

Posted by: commentguy | Mar 21, 2005 11:00:03 AM

pretty clear Kev doesn't have kids.

Posted by: Right of Center | Mar 21, 2005 11:11:33 AM

Kevin, that's the kind of thing you post in response to a letter from parents about their young child being struck by a car? Do you have a heart? Or is that supposed to be sophisticated banter?

Posted by: gc | Mar 21, 2005 11:11:48 AM

2 traffic lights seems like a no brainer. 1 at the plaza & 1 at the west side of the trestle. I guess we need a few more herd thinning incidents before this blatant hazard is addressed.

Posted by: Greg | Mar 21, 2005 11:27:06 AM

BOTH intersections of watchung & park are nightwares for pedestrians, but also for cars trying to cross traffic. There need to be traffic lights, but if you do that, watch for people speeding through nearby residential sidestreets (gordonhurst, wildwood, n. fullerton, etc) even more than they do already.

I don't know what the answer is, but slowing cars down in Montclair is key. The focus of the Watchung Plaza traffic solution should promote not only pedestrian safety, but also the merchants, the park, & the train station. Unfortunately, in it's current configuration, none of these are being addressed very well.

Drive through any of the westchester or CT towns with small business areas like we have in Montclair...I've never seen any as dangerous as ours.

Posted by: JK | Mar 21, 2005 11:57:28 AM

kevin, i hope you're not using your real name.

Posted by: walleroo | Mar 21, 2005 12:10:34 PM

As pedestrians, why can't we all just walk to the light at N. Fullerton to cross Watchung? The walk won't kill any of us, but crossing near the gas station might.

Posted by: ss | Mar 21, 2005 12:14:48 PM

hey, on a slightly different note, does anyone know what went down saturday night, around 7:30 or 8:00?

there were a ton of blaring sirens and firetrucks racing down bloomfield avenue.

Posted by: Left Of Center, like Suzanne Vega | Mar 21, 2005 12:26:15 PM

looking all ways is good advice. however it is still a very dangerous intersection. i too am not sure of the solution but maybe we can come up with one if we keep searching. crossing at the north fullerton light is the best suggestion so far.

Posted by: fran | Mar 21, 2005 12:39:02 PM

To Left of Center -- The 3 car accident on Grove and Walnut that I described above occured Saturday night at 7:45. There were no fire trucks at the scene, but there were 3 police cars and an ambulence that all arrived with the sirens on. So that may have been it.

Posted by: Jessica | Mar 21, 2005 12:57:37 PM

[Kevin, that's the kind of thing you post in response to a letter from parents about their young child being struck by a car? Do you have a heart? Or is that supposed to be sophisticated banter?]

not very sophisticated.
and i think the answer is "no"

Posted by: butchcjg | Mar 21, 2005 2:31:35 PM

Lots of folks (including BikeMontclair and myself) went cosmic over several other child car accidents, one on Valley, one on Park, several months ago. I even started a letter writing campaign to the Town Council, and there was an editorial in the Montclair Times.

Net reaction from the town was zero. No interest in yield signs, crosswalks, etc.

But there were several meetings about goose poop in Edgemnot Park about the same time.

Oh, and by the way, that crosswalk by Fullerton and Watchung? Funny you mention it because that's where the former Town Manager got hit by a car. Maybe someone remembers the details, and who he was with.


Posted by: carya | Mar 21, 2005 2:49:47 PM

I think everyone has had the same experience at the Watchung Plaza intersections. As hard as it is to believe, statistically the intersection of Park and Watchung is one of the safest big intersections in town.

The theory is that it's so confusing and fear-inducing, that it's actually safe because it forces drivers and pedestrians to pay attention. Streets with no turns and high speeds are the most dangerous, at least as far as actual accidents go. (Think Grove & Walnut, Valley and Bellevue, Grove and Glen Ridge Ave.)

This doen't excuse the lack of response from the township, however. Nor do I think the proposal of simply walking to the crosswalk at N. Fullerton makes much functional sense. (What other intersections can you think of that don't also provide for pedestian crossing?) The mere fact that this intersection is such a consistent source of alarm makes me think that more could be done.

With the establishement of a traffic calming task force by the township, there is the possibility of fixing intersections like Watchung Plaza, but only if concerned residents exert unified pressure on the town and county to make the changes. Bike Montclair's traffic study went a long way to proposing changes for dangerous intersections, but I was disappointed to see the actual turnout for meetings where decisions actually got made on how to implement them. If people don't pay attention to what's being done right now, there won't be another chance like this for quite some time.

Posted by: Alex | Mar 21, 2005 3:27:04 PM

i think we should hire kev as traffic cop.

Posted by: walleroo | Mar 21, 2005 10:57:18 PM

traffic cop isn't personal enough...

he should work with old frail people or young children or the disabled.

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