*** Compiled by Phil Kunz & Bryan Lewis
On July 9th, the Borough Committee invited members of the community, the HCTA, the police department and the volunteer fire department to view the computer simulation of the traffic patterns and delays for the current configuration and the proposed 3-lane configuration. Phil Kunz and Bryan Lewis represented the HCTA at this meeting. This simulation was presented by Frank Scarantino the head of the Ocean County Engineers Office and Jeff Smithline of Stantech engineering, a consultant for the County.
The County and Borough, at the request of the Taxpayers Association, were looking to see what could be done to improve safety for walkers, joggers, and cyclists and people trying to turn onto the Boulevard, and to make sure that these safety improvements would not cause serious degradations in Blvd capacity. To get the number of vehicles to input into a computer generated simulation model produced by Stantech, the county sent people out to 9 intersections to count pedestrians and vehicles by type, lane, direction and turns. These counts took place on July 22, 23 and 29 and August 6 between 10am and 2pm. At the request of the Borough, these numbers were then increased 30% to stress the computer simulation to a point estimated to simulating weekend traffic levels.
The proposed design modeled, provided a 10 foot pedestrian path on both shoulders, one lane in each direction, and a center turning lane. In the words of both the county and the engineer, the new configuration is “considerably safer” and “greatly enhances the level of service from side streets.” The increase in travel time from one end of town to the other is 30 seconds. They felt that the trade-off in travel time (level of service) was far outweighed by the increase in overall safety.
Level of service is defined as the amount of delay at an intersection. There are 6 grades of service; A to F. D is considered acceptable for side streets, C for signaled intersections. To give you an idea of the level of service we have under the existing 4 lanes, Burlington and 83rd street are rated E, 77Th street was rated and F. With the new configuration, Burlington moved up 1 level of service, and 77Th and 83rd moved up 2 levels of service. The service at the signaled intersections will be slightly degraded, moving from an A to a B. but again, across the entire length of town, this adds 30 seconds to the trip, and service level B is still greater than the signaled intersections at the southern end of the island.
The engineer was able to explain, through the computer model, why the 3 lane configuration was almost 95% as efficient as the 4 lane configuration. Anyone who has been in the left lane at a red light in town already knows why – when the light changes and somebody is looking to make a left, that left lane is out of service for through-traffic until the lead driver can make their left turn.
During the meeting, there was opposition to the plan from people who felt that the traffic count numbers were not accurate. The engineer then modified the software to simulate a 230% increase in traffic volumes. Again, the model showed that there was no serious degradation in service, even though this almost more than doubled the traffic coming off of the side streets, which the engineer felt was not a realistic assumption as it would really be much less.
Those against the plan were still worried about 2 peak times, Friday night and Saturday rental change over. The County will be putting out automated traffic counters over 2 weekends in July to get the actual numbers for input to the model. The amended model will be shown to the public in early August.
It is the opinion of the HCTA Board that even if the amended model comes back and increases the travel time for the length to the town from 30 seconds to minutes for these 3 or 4 peak hours on 2 days out of an entire week, the proposed traffic pattern should be enacted for several reasons:
1. In the opinion of the County and the engineering firm contracted to run the study, this plan is safer. Both gentleman said the plan was “considerably safer, “offered a “big safety benefit,” and that they “especially like this treatment for people crossing the street.” We know from the existing traffic counts and modeling that the increase in transit time is 30 seconds. We will gladly sacrifice 30 seconds in the car to ensure a safer Boulevard. Harvey Cedars is not about speed, it is about quality of life for our families.
2. We feel that we should not judge a plan by 3 or 4 peak hours out of a total of 168 hours. To do so would be short-sighted. While the increased transit time during these peak hours may be greater than 30 seconds, it will still come with increased safety benefits 24 hours a day.
As the engineer put it, in other places they have instituted this treatment, the towns were willing to put up with a significant degradation of service in the interest of safety. That is not a choice we have to make. We get a considerably safer Boulevard and significantly safer access from side streets for the cost of 30 seconds. We feel it is a trade-off well worth doing