TC blames county for delay on pedestrian safety project

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Township Committee alleged at their June 6 meeting that Essex County has not upheld its promise of a joint-project with the town to redesign the intersections where Baker Street and Tuscan Road meet Valley Street, a county road.

Committeewoman Nancy Adams expressed to Jeanette Paige-Hawkins, the county’s liaison to Maplewood, who attended the meeting, that she is concerned the project — to redesign the two intersections for pedestrian safety — will not be possible because of the county.

According to Adams, the town has upheld its part of the plan to create the design, but the county has not done the work to implement changes, as it had previously promised.

“I need to know whether that’s going to be changed going further, if they’re going to follow through with the plans. I am scared they are not going to do that,” Adams told Paige-Hawkins, saying that her fear was triggered “because it is important for pedestrian safety.”

Two years ago, the township engineer came up with a new design for the intersections — after consulting with Essex County traffic engineer Asif Mahmood — to create wider sidewalks for the Baker Street intersection, and improve the time radius and move the signal pole closer to the corner at Tuscan Road, Adams said.

“I feel like our engineer did all that work for nothing; I did all that work for nothing. It’s two years of communication that has just been ignored,” Adams said.

When reached by the News-Record, Mahmood declined to comment. Other county officials did not respond to requests for comment.

“I’ll go back and I’ll try to find some more information,” Paige-Hawkins told the committee members.

Deputy Mayor Frank McGehee read aloud an email from county administrator Robert Jackson in which Jackson noted that Public Works Director Sanjeev Varghese, the county’s engineer, would be happy to have Maplewood take the lead on this project. But McGehee asserted that it is Varghese’s job and responsibility to take the lead — not Maplewood’s.

“It seems like we are getting the shorter end of the stick here from the county,” McGehee said. “We are coming out to vote and we’re not getting the resources that we deserve.

“We vote for those people in those offices. We want some services,” he told Paige-Hawkins. “Can you take that message back?”