Metuchen police ran an undercover speed operation along Grove Avenue last week. In an hour, officers stopped 30 vehicles for violations, according to Metuchen traffic safety officer Ken Bauer.
“The police department obviously favors a lower speed limit [on Grove Avenue],” Bauer said.
Bauer spoke at a public hearing hosted by the borough’s Traffic and Transportation Committee Wednesday at the high school. The purpose of the hearing was to gather public comment on changing the speed limit on Grove Avenue from 35 m.p.h. to 25 m.p.h.
The committee will take the record from the meeting and deliberate on changing the speed limit at its meeting in November, after which the issue will come before the full borough council, possibly in December, Council President Ronald Grayzel said.
Grove Avenue runs for 1.05 miles through Metuchen from Woodbridge Avenue to around Mason Drive and the border of Edison, according to a map provided at the meeting and Borough Administrator Jennifer Maier. It continues for more than 2 miles through Edison Township.
While Grove Avenue has the “feel” of a 35 m.p.h. road, it gets heavy use from bikers and pedestrians, including high school students walking to and from school and student athletes like cross-country runners.
Based on a recent survey of 555 students the school, 56.4 percent of students are dropped off by parents or guardians; 20.2 percent walk to school; 14.8 percent drive themselves or get driven by friends; 6 percent ride bikes; 1.3 percent ride skateboards; 0.7 percent take a bus and 0.5 percent take a taxi, said Metuchen High School Principal Bruce Peragallo. There is no busing at the high school other than a bus used to transport a disabled student, he said.
Peragallo said his concern about the speed limit on Grove involves three factors affected by vehicle speed: driving reaction distance to something in the road, braking distance and total stopping distance. At 35 m.p.h., reaction distance is 38 feet, braking distance is 63 feet and total stopping distance (combination of reaction and braking distance) is 101 feet. That distance is akin to placement of telephone poles, which are roughly 100 to 110 feet from each other, Peragallo said.
At 25 m.p.h., reaction distance is 27 feet, braking is 32 feet for total of 59 feet of total stopping distance, he said. Other variables come into play with the numbers, like the quality of the brakes, visibility and dry road surface, he said.
Compounding his concerns is the fact the high school only has two crossing guards so at most crossings students are on own their own, he said.
“A 10 m.p.h reduction in speed limit will not make them entirely safe but will make them a lot safer than at 35 m.p.h.,” he said. “I strongly urge consideration for a change to be made.”
Speed is a major factor in the severity of injuries in vehicle accidents, Officer Bauer said. At 40 m.p.h., a person hit by a car has an 85 percent chance of being killed. That drops to 45 percent at 30 m.p.h., he said. “It’s crystal clear, the faster the speed limit is, the better the chance if you get struck as a pedestrian, you’re going to get a serious injury or possibly get killed,” Bauer said.
Not surprisingly, residents who spoke at the hearing supported lowering the speed limit. In fact, no one spoke out in support of maintaining the current speed limit on Grove.
“There are times when 25 m.p.h. is too fast on Grove,” said Greg Daro, a resident of Mason Drive. “It ought to be 25 m.p.h. the entire length.” Daro compared Grove at 35 m.p.h. with nearby Lincoln Highway, which is 35 m.p.h. and is a major state road.