VENTNOR – The NJ Department of Transportation recently awarded Ventnor City a $207,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant to complete pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements near the Ventnor Educational Community Complex on N. Lafayette Avenue.
“The Safe Route to School Program has proven to be very popular,” NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “This year the state received 77 applications requesting a total of more than $41 million. With $5.6 million available, the state funded 18 projects.”
Mayor Beth Holtzman expressed appreciation to the DOT for approving the federally-funded grant.
“Safety improvements for our children to access the school is a priority,” Holtzman said.
The grant was the result of a team effort that included the Board of Commissioners, Board of Education, school administration, Ventnor City Police Department, city Administrator Maria Mento and engineer Ed Stinson, the mayor said. The grant application and School Travel Plan was prepared by the city’s grant consultant, Jim Rutala of Rutala Associates, LLC of Linwood.
Planned improvements will extend along several blocks of Lafayette Avenue from Ventnor Gardens Plaza to Fulton Avenue.
High-visibility crosswalks will be added at the Ventnor Gardens Plaza intersection. Curb extensions will be added at the intersections of Ventnor Gardens Plaza, Balfour Avenue, Essex Avenue and Fulton Avenue. Pedestrian refuge islands will be added at the intersections of Balfour, Essex and Fulton. Shared lane marking will be added to provide for safer access for bicyclists and a 60-foot-wide cross section of Lafayette Avenue will be modified to include bike lanes and a center turn lane.
The plan was the result of a 2016 study to develop a regional bicycle and pedestrian network in Ventnor and Margate. The Ventnor-Margate Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, which is available on the city’s website, www.ventnorcity.org, recommended the improvements be funded by the Safe Routes to School program. Margate was awarded a similar grant in 2016 and is scheduled to make improvements along Amherst Avenue near the Eugene A. Tighe Middle School later this year.
In 2017, members of the Ventnor School Travel Plan Committee worked on a revised plan to improve safe access to the school. The plan identified an area of concern where N. Wyoming Avenue intersects with Calvert Avenue and Ventnor Gardens Plaza. The irregular configuration of the intersections causes confusion among drivers, which creates potential hazards for walkers and cyclists. The plan also notes that many of the students must walk along N. Wyoming Avenue to get to school.
Additional improvements are needed along this corridor to make it safer for walkers and bikers and to alert cross-traffic of the presence of school children. Both Lafayette Avenue in front of the VECC and the Ventnor Gardens Plaza and Wyoming Avenue intersection were identified as problem areas.
Lafayette Avenue is currently very wide, and the space is not well defined, which encourages higher vehicles speeds and makes it more difficult for crossing guards to manage the space. The Ventnor Gardens Plaza and Wyoming Avenue intersection, which is a gateway to the school, has an irregular configuration that creates potential hazards for walkers and cyclists. The existing intersection is skewed, with a large turning radius that enables high speed vehicle turns, and only has pedestrian crosswalks on two of its four legs.
The Ventnor project was one of only three grants awarded in the South Jersey area. Hammonton and West Cape May Borough also received awards.