CITY OF ELIZABETH, NEW JERSEY
Mayor Bollwage

City and State Join Forces for "Walk Smart - Drive Smart Elizabeth"

"I have had conversations with my administration about identifying pedestrian safety needs in the city. After talking with Colonel O’Hagan, Director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, I discovered that a state and local collaboration could be possible, and we could really make some improvements."
- Mayor Bollwage

Mayor Chris Bollwage is directing a three part strategic attack on pedestrian-related traffic accidents in the City of Elizabeth. Working with both the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety and the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone program, Mayor Bollwage is implementing a Walk Smart - Drive Smart Elizabeth! campaign. The program employs education, enforcement and engineering in an effort to decrease the incidence of pedestrian-related traffic accidents.

In his role as Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Highway Safety Subcommittee, Mayor Chris Bollwage and Thomas Louizou, Regional Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, discussed ways to improve pedestrian safety for all municipalities. Through the Subcommittee, the Mayor then met Colonel Peter O’Hagan, Director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, and embarked on an ambitious plan to increase safety for the citizens of the City of Elizabeth.

Starting with a Task Force and a Study

The Mayor’s first move was to create a citywide Pedestrian Safety Task Force to identify the problems and recommend solutions. The Task Force is comprised of Councilman Edward Jackus and representatives of the Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, Elizabeth Police Department, the Elizabeth Development Company, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety and various members of the city administration.

One of the first efforts the city pursued was a Pedestrian Safety Study conducted by Elizabeth’s Division of Traffic Safety. The Police Department hired Assiran Dass, a civil engineering student from New Jersey Institute of Technology to do an internship for the project. After designing a safety survey assessment tool with the Elizabeth Police Division of Traffic Safety and the city’s Engineering Department, Ms. Dass observed and evaluated high-risk intersections previously identified by the Police Department. These intersections were evaluated for audible signal, signage, crosswalks, and traffic light improvement needs. Enforcement needs were also assessed, and notes were made with respect to the occurrence of pedestrian versus motorist violations.

Finding the Funds

Concurrently, the Task Force was working on a two-prong funding approach for the traffic corrections. With guidance from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the city applied for, and was awarded, two grants from the state totaling $34,000 to support the activities outlined by the Mayor’s Pedestrian Safety Task Force. Of the $34,000, $24,000 is being utilized to support pedestrian safety education and enforcement. The other $10,000 is allocated for engineering improvements to Elizabeth’s ten intersections with the highest incidence of pedestrian-related accidents.

The city’s safety improvement measures are being further supported by $40,000 in Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) revenues, which will be used to enhance forty additional intersections. Among the activities included in the UEZ funded projects are the provisions of crosswalk stripings and pedestrian safety signage.

"The actions outlined by the Task Force make up a comprehensive plan for an important issue," Mayor Bollwage said. "We need to see real improvements in safety for our citizens, and through the cooperative efforts and financial support of the state and the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone, real improvements will be made."

Educating Children, Seniors, and Motorists

The Task Force and Lt. Edward Baginski of the Elizabeth Police Department, Traffic Safety Division, also launched the start of a wide scope education program called "Walk Smart - Drive Smart Elizabeth!" The instruction will be a service primarily for school children and senior citizens in the city. The education component is strongly recommended by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.

Lt. Baginski describes the message as the basic traffic laws that must be obeyed in order to ensure safety. The city’s Police Department will be increasing enforcement of traffic laws. Officers will be looking for such violations as motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians, run red lights, and fail to stop at stop signs or before turning right on red. As for pedestrians, jaywalkers will also have to beware of a potential $50 fine that could be imposed for the violation.

Merging State and Local Goals

"Pedestrian safety has been identified as one of the Division’s major priority programs for 1999," said Colonel Peter O’Hagan, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. "By creating comprehensive safety programs in our large cities, like Elizabeth, we can heighten both motorist and pedestrian awareness, and reduce the death and injury toll due to motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians on our roadways."

Contact: Felice Vazquez, Office of Public Information, Elizabeth, (908) 820-4026.

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