Council has plans to lower speed limit on Pleasant Valley

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council has plans to reduce speed limits on Pleasant Valley Way as well as to amend the school zone on Pleasant Valley Way for the Eric F. Ross Upper School Campus of Golda Och Academy. The resolution passed on its second and final reading at the Dec. 5 council meeting, with a 5-0 unanimous vote.

As written, the ordinance will reduce the speed limit on Pleasant Valley Way from Northfield Avenue to the center of Cornell Street from 50 to 40 mph from the center of Northfield Avenue to the center of State Highway 10, aka Mount Pleasant Avenue. The school zone will have a speed limit of 25 miles per hour, beginning 490 feet north of the center of Brook End Drive to 585 feet north of the center of Underwood Drive.

The reduction of the speed limit and creation of the school zone came from a recommendation from a study by engineering consulting firm NV5 for the Essex County Division of Engineering. According to the report, speed studies were conducted along the street Sept. 20. Of 100 vehicles, the 85th percentile of speeds recorded ranged from 45 to 47 mph for northbound vehicles, and from 45 to 49.2 mph for those southbound. Based on the report’s findings, the recommended speed limit was either 40 or 45 miles per hour.

“I’m happy about it,” Councilman Jerry Guarino told the Chronicle in a Dec. 2 interview about the impending vote on the ordinance. Guarino is also a member of the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board.

“Not many kids walk everywhere these days; everything is driving,” he said. “So it makes it safer on some of those big streets.”

Golda Och Academy Head of School Adam Shapiro is also pleased with the ordinance. The school zone, stretching from Brook End Drive to Underwood Drive, is an addition to the school zone speed limit that already exists around the Golda Och Upper School campus.

“With parents and caretakers pulling in and out of our school off of Pleasant Valley Way, along with those students who drive themselves, lowering the speed limit along that roadway would be a welcome change,” Shapiro said in an email to the Chronicle on Dec. 3. “Mayor (Robert) Parisi and the rest of our town leadership have demonstrated — time and again — that the safety and security of our school community, along with all residents of West Orange, is of paramount importance and for that we are quite appreciative.”

Roz Moskovitz Bielski, a member of the West Orange Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board, said the speed limit changes are something for which the board has been advocating for a long time.

“We’ve been asking why the limit is 50 mph around Golda Och for a long time,” Bielski said in a phone interview with the Chronicle on Dec. 4. “Every other town in the area — Millburn, Bloomfield, Montclair — has a 25 mph speed limit at their major intersections and we don’t.”

Bielski said the ordinance is progress, but there is still more work to be done. She wants to see more speeding enforcement along Pleasant Valley Way and the surrounding areas, where she said people often drive at 50 mph.

“Students and seniors walk through that area, and we need more enforcement,” she said, adding that she would like to see officers from the West Orange Police Department or Essex County Sheriff’s Department stationed on that street in the morning for added safety measures. “It’s a great step in the right direction, but we need much more.”