Orange and East Orange address Freeway Drive safety concerns in joint conference

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — Driver and road safety on Freeway Drive in East Orange and Orange was the topic of a press conference held by Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake on Thursday, Jan. 12, in East Orange in collaboration with East Orange Mayor Ted R. Green, Orange Mayor Dwayne D. Warren, Orange Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten and Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.

“This is the heart of the city, this is where both sides of the city intersect as well as people all over Essex County come to access Route 280 and the Garden State Parkway — it is very busy,” Assemblywoman Timberlake said at the event.

Due to the overwhelming traffic and buildup that occurs along Freeway Drive, Timberlake addressed the number of accidents that have occurred on this road.

“This is a very dangerous corridor that we are highlighting the issues for,” Timberlake said. “There have been 994 accidents in the last four years. In 2022 there were 244, in 2020 there were 219, in 2019 there were 259.”

In addition to the accidents, Timberlake highlighted the fatalities that have occurred along this road.

“There have been an unacceptable number of fatalities. To those families we send you our deepest condolences,” Timberlake said. “Something has got to be done so that we no longer need to send condolences to families and no longer need to call victims who have been hospitalized.”

Timberlake also addressed residential traffic and the potential for pedestrians to be injured in the area.

“People cross Freeway Drive from their residential areas, including myself, every single day. Millions of cars over the years go to pick up their children from schools and day cares, to access work and many other activities,” Timberlake said. “Since 2013, East Orange has lobbied the Department of Transportation for improvement. We have had several meetings with them, but this is about making a public acknowledgment that we need more.”

Timberlake then discussed commonsense measures to improve safety along Freeway Drive, such as banning skateboards and bicycles, and fixing crumbling sidewalks.

“Since 2013, we have advocated for commonsense solutions such as delaying traffic lights on the north and south crossing intersections and better crosswalk signs,” Timberlake said. “We also need clear crosswalk lanes to be drawn out and clear signs to address several blind spots on Freeway Drive. If a pedestrian were to walk and a car was turning, both of those individuals would not see each other.”

Green spoke of the importance of drawing attention to the public safety issue on Freeway Drive.

“I know that nobody standing here today wants to get those phone calls from their loved ones when it comes to accidents,” Green said at the event. “As a mayor, along with council members here and the police department, we often get the calls and we have witnessed accidents that have occurred here.”

Warren also lamented the ongoing traffic incidents and danger on Freeway Drive.

“Pedestrian and traffic safety are the most important issues for Freeway Drive,” Warren said at the event. “As critical as this strip is to local and interstate travel, it is equally as dangerous. The narrow sidewalks, setbacks and high speeds make it a virtual kill zone for pedestrians.”

East Orange Public Safety Director Maurice Boyd reminded drivers to lower their speed when driving through the city, particularly on Freeway Drive.

“Speeding on Freeway Drive has led to more accidents with injuries than any other location in the city,” Boyd said at the event. “Motorists who drive above the speed limit pose the greatest risk to our community; speeding is the leading cause of accidents and deaths on our streets. We are asking drivers to plan ahead well in advance to avoid the temptation of speeding through the streets.”

Wooten also pleaded with drivers to slow down and remain vigilant.

“Freeway Drive has been a menace for our towns. It shouldn’t be normal for me to drive down Oakwood Avenue and see a car flipped over,” Wooten said at the event. “It shouldn’t be normal for me to take my grandmother down Freeway Drive and see blue and red lights everywhere.”

Timberlake urged the New Jersey Department of Transportation to expedite any solutions to this issue to avoid further injuries and casualties.

“We as elected officials and as human beings are here asking to speed up the process of solutions — that’s what this is about,” Timberlake said.

Photos by Javon Ross