Luddington now a one-way road

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council unanimously approved an ordinance on second and final reading to turn Luddington Road into a westbound one-way street at its Oct. 3 meeting. The street, which is frequently used to reach South Valley Road and the South Orange Train Station, is only 20 feet wide. The width and amount of traffic on the street “creates the dual hazards posed by speed and passing in opposite directions on the tight curves and narrow roadway. During the leaf season and the winter snow plowing, the road narrows even further due to piles along the sides of the road,” according to the ordinance.

Residents of the surrounding area attended the meeting to both support and oppose the ordinance, and expressed their thoughts about the change to members of the council.

Jason Ryan, who lives on Melrose Place, a side street off Luddington, protested the approval of the ordinance, citing convenience and traffic concerns.

“We’re fortunate to have a jitney stop there,” Ryan said, adding that he and his wife work in Manhattan. “We have the convenience of being able to go up and down on that street to go to CVS and go to the train, and that was one of the things we really liked about it.”

Ryan said he had moved to Melrose Place four years ago from Brooklyn, and might have made a different choice if Luddington Road had been a one-way street back then. He also expressed concerns about the traffic that will be distributed to side streets as a result of Luddington’s new one-way designation.

“Once you go outside of that it’s going to start to have an effect on roads like Overlook Avenue, which has a lot of children playing in the street,” he said.

Luddington Road resident Cornelius Evans echoed Ryan by crediting the jitney with being a major draw for the neighborhood and in his disapproval of the change to the roadway. He said speed bumps should be looked at as an alternative solution.

“I haven’t seen an accident,” Evans said at the meeting. “Maybe there has been, but not that I could find. Speed bumps were never designed to take care of all accidents, but they are deterrents. They do help slow the person down sometimes.”

Margery Terry, a resident of Franklin Terrace in South Orange, spoke about the overflow that Ryan mentioned but supported the change to a one-way street.

“What this has raised on our parallel street is an increased awareness (that) we all need to be putting as many safety measures in place as possible,” Terry said at the meeting. “We realize that there could be overflow traffic coming to Franklin Place … I fully support this, I use Luddington all the time and am always thinking that my side-view mirror is going to get swiped off. I fully support this even though we know there will be residual impact on our street.”

Concern about children’s safety was the sticking point for many speakers during the discussion, with many residents saying the one-way street would decrease traffic and make it safer for children who play and walk to school in the area.

Michael Ullrich, who lives on the West Orange side of Franklin Terrace, supported the change due to the fact that it would eliminate the blind spot in the curve of Luddington Road.

“Make no mistake about it, we’re pushing 50 percent of the burden,” Ullrich said at the meeting. “It will still be a one-way street, and all that commuter traffic in the afternoon will stay there. The good news is that there’s no blind spot going in that direction for where you have people crossing.”

Ullrich also said that the jitney stop could be moved to the corner of Gregory Avenue and Luddington Road, or to South Valley Road.

According to John Gross, the West Orange chief financial officer, a speed and volume analysis was done by the township’s engineering department in December 2016, and it was revisited in April of this year to gauge what could be done on Luddington Road. The report found that during the course of 13 days, the average daily count going eastbound on the street was 371 cars, while the average westbound traffic was 462 cars. The study also accounted for vehicle counts on surrounding streets.

“Luddington Road at Franklin had an average of 544.3 (cars going back and forth) a day,” Gross said. “Luddington at Overlook had 487. Compare that to Overlook, where the average was 62 northbound and 87 southbound. And if you look at Lawrence, it’s half of what was at Luddington, 289 westbound and eastbound was 244.”

Gross said installing speed bumps is not a viable solution because of the steepness of Luddington Road. Additionally, stop signs must be approved by the state at certain intersections, and Gross said the administration is skeptical they’d be allowed to place them in the area. He also said that the jitney route will not be affected.

After discussion, the council ultimately decided to make Luddington Road a one-way street to alleviate some of the issues in the neighborhood. And Councilman Victor Cirilo addressed concerns brought up regarding emergency vehicles like police cars and fire trucks being able to reach the street, now that both directions will no longer be available.

“Emergency vehicles will get there,” Cirilo said at the meeting. “They will get there. And they may be able to travel the opposite way if they have to, if it’s a severe emergency.”

Councilwoman Susan McCartney was surprised by the number of cars that travel on and around Luddington Road, and was ultimately swayed by the statistics. She also said at the meeting that she doesn’t see an influx of traffic moving to the side streets from Luddington Road now that it will be a one-way street.

“Just the volume itself is uncanny on these streets,” McCartney said at the meeting. “When I visualize Luddington, it is one of the most beautiful streets that we have in West Orange, and so is the outlying area. I think people know it’s a quiet little street and I think that’s the attraction. It’s not a highway, you’re not going to be detected there and I think people caught onto that. If these are the number of cars that we’re talking about … our decision should be based on the direct impact of the people who live right there.”

Photos by Amanda Valentovic