BERKELEY – In the two and a half years since the light at Frederick Drive and Route 9 has been in existence, crashes have dramatically decreased, police said.
The intersection had been a dangerous one for years before that. There had been three fatalities since 2009. The township petitioned the State Department of Transportation to build a traffic light there in 2012 and it was finally completed in August of 2018.
What a lot of drivers probably don’t realize is that there is a large neighborhood off Frederick, if you head west. There is an apartment complex not far from the intersection. There are other roads in and out of the area, but Frederick is the most convenient, at least for those who live in the apartments.
These residents would often walk to the shopping plaza, crossing Route 9 to do so. This shopping plaza, anchored by ShopRite, is extremely busy. The way the parking lot is designed, it appears that there was a plan to have a standalone building close to this intersection, such as a bank or a drive-through restaurant. There are entrances to this plaza to the north and south of Frederick Drive, and both of them get tight with traffic and people riding the shoulders to get around drivers trying to make a left into the parking lot.
When the town made its original request to the DOT in 2012 they provided statistics to prove it was dangerous. There had been 45 crashes in the few years before this request. Six of these crashes involved pedestrians; resulting in two fatalities.
In the span of 2012 to 2018, the number of crashes per year were about the same, Lt. Ryan Roth said. One of these was fatal. In 2015, a delivery driver was counting his tip while driving and didn’t see the pedestrians until it was too late.
A memorial to one of the victims, Denise Marie Iesals, who died that night, is currently installed near the intersection. This crash happened while the DOT was still deciding whether to put up a light.
Route 9 is a state road, so any improvements to it have to be done by the state. The mayor and council, at one time, offered to have the township put the light up themselves but the state didn’t let them. The township had been required to put aside 25 percent of the cost of the light years before.
Since the light was installed 2.5 years ago, there have been nine crashes, Roth said. Two of these resulted in minor injuries. There were no crashes involving pedestrians and no fatalities.
“It has legitimately saved lives,” he said. “And it has made what crashes we do have more minor.”
The light has a button pedestrians can push to change the light so they can cross safely. This was one of the stipulations the governing body wanted when they petitioned the state and they were glad it was included.
Locals have complained that the traffic light slows down Route 9, which was already slow to begin with. There’s a traffic light not too far to the north, which provides a merge of traffic from Ocean Gate and Berkeley Shores.