By Aimee Jefferson
On a clear, crisp November day, 30 students from the Passaic Academy for Science & Engineering set out on a road safety audit (RSA) to investigate how to improve Main Avenue, the City of Passaic’s downtown core. The students were led by the project team of the Main Avenue Local Concept Development
(LCD) study as one of the outreach efforts to better understand how the corridor is used.
It was one of 38 RSAs conducted in northern New Jersey, and supported by the NJTPA, since 2010. Recognized by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a proven safety countermeasure, RSAs bring together a wide range of engineering, planning, governmental and enforcement professionals — and sometimes students — to review the safety characteristics of a planned or existing road and brainstorm substantive design solutions to reduce crash severity.
In preparation for the audit and as one of their Data Analytics class assignments, the students reviewed the corridor’s pedestrian and bicycle crash data to identify recurring patterns, such as distracted drivers causing half the crashes.
The day of the audit, the project team (consisting of NJTPA, county, municipal and consultant staff) met with the students to talk about engineering solutions to improve road safety. The students’ perspectives were invaluable as many of them walk the corridor on their way to school. Their findings included observed maintenance needs, deteriorated sidewalks, vehicles parked too close to bus stops, empty tree pits, and pedestrians crossing mid-block from the parking median.
After the walk, the students returned to the school to share their ideas. They suggested converting the central parking median into plaza space for cultural events and vendors; adding more greenery to the corridor; providing bike lanes; and adding curb extensions at the intersections to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians. One student team recommended improving bus stop conditions to make it feel safer and more convenient for passengers. The audits findings will be incorporated into the study’s final report, which will recommend a single preferred alternative for the future layout of Main Avenue.
Recommendations from other RSAs conducted in northern New Jersey have been incorporated into construction projects as part of the NJTPA’s Local Safety Program. For example, safety improvements to Washington Avenue in Carlstadt in Bergen County, incorporated several recommendations from an RSA, including installation of a high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon, a crosswalk, additional sidewalks and a concrete median barrier, all of which were constructed in 2018 through the Local Safety Program.
The NJTPA and its partners view RSAs as a flexible, effective and fast way to generate practical recommendations that address data-driven and observed safety issues along selected roads. More information on RSA’s is available on NJTPA’s website.