BERKELEY – Most people don’t think about traffic on the way to Seaside except for the way it affects them. If there are a lot of other cars on the road, they complain about how it might slow down their trip to the beach. But there are little neighborhood areas that are affected by the traffic in much worse ways.
Pelican Island is a small patch of land that the Mathis-Tunney bridges touch down on when you’re heading toward Seaside. During the off-peak months, the island is pretty quiet. But during the summer, residents are very concerned about the traffic.
Resident Sue Kosakowski said there have been four deaths by the light at Catalina Avenue and Route 37.
“Anyone on the island knows not to go when it turns green” because there’s a good chance that someone will still blow through their red light, she said.
According to police statistics that residents of the neighborhood have accumulated, there were indeed four fatal crashes in the area between the years of 2008 and 2015. Two of them were pedestrians. There were 411 crashes resulting in 152 injuries. Unsurprisingly, the number of crashes increased in the summer and on weekends.
Kosakowski said that the Berkeley police department has been in touch with her to also gather crash statistics.
It’s always been bad, but in the last five years it’s become worse, she said. Now, there’s added construction vehicles coming over because of repairing homes from Superstorm Sandy.
She would like to see a sign on the Mathis-Tunney bridges heading to Seaside to let people know that there is a light coming. She’d also like to see a more prominent traffic signal like the ones that Seaside installed. The lights are bigger, with a black background, so the lights could be more visible.
“We have been to the state,” she said. “We get absolutely nowhere.”
Route 37 is a state highway, and as such, any changes have to be approved by the state.
The state recently completed a major reconstruction project of the Mathis bridge, but improvements to this intersection were not part of it. Daniel Triana, public information officer for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, said that there are no plans to make changes to this intersection.
If a local official wants to request an investigation to determine what changes would help, they would need to send a signed township letter to the DOT’s executive manager of traffic engineering, agreeing to 25 percent of the cost of changes, he said.
The border between Toms River and Berkeley actually runs through Pelican Island. The traffic light in question is on the Berkeley side. Berkeley Township used to incorporate a much larger portion of the county, but many years ago, sections of town seceded, leaving remote areas still part of Berkeley.
Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato said that he would be willing to advocate on behalf of residents in the area if there was a specific plan.
“Any type of safety enhancement – we are in favor of,” he said.