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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Protest Renewed for Parkway Signal Warnings, Enforcement

By Al Campbell

COURT HOUSE — Eric Meyer has begun anew to protest the Garden State Parkway’s lack of signage alerting motorists to three Middle Township traffic signals, and lack of speed limit enforcement.
Meyer’s son Christopher, 17, was killed Nov. 4, 2004 at the very intersection where he stood on Labor Day Weekend, where he stood for three hours on Sept. 7, and where he vows to stand “every weekend until something gets done.”
Last weekend, Meyer of Mayville, wore an orange shirt, partly as a safety measure, partly to be more easily seen.
Behind him, on the northwest corner of Stone Harbor Boulevard and the parkway, were 15 small, white crosses in neat rows. Each had a black ribbon affixed.
Meyer held a sign, while another was propped in a dented guardrail, “Speed Limit 50,” it stated.
“Those dents weren’t here the last time I stood here,” said Meyer, as throaty Harley-Davidson motorcycles, headed for the Roar to the Shore Rally in Wildwood, revved their engines at the traffic signal.
Legislators at the local, county, state and federal level know Meyer. All have expressed their condolences and sentiments to him; vowed to help correct the horrid roadway situation, then gone back to their offices.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo used the intersection to announce a federal grant that may someday help to erect overpasses that will eliminate the need for the traffic signals.
Meyer, a realist, knows bureaucracy’s gears move slowly. He does what he does in hopes of speeding things along, of adding oil to those rusty gears so that no one else will perish at one of the only intersections on the length of the 173-mile Garden State Parkway.
Thanks to assistance from Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew (D-1st), Meyer wrested public facts from a public agency to learn how many accidents there have been at those intersections.
Since 1991, there have been 14 fatalities at those three lights.
That’s why Meyer erected 15 crosses.
“Some people asked me, ‘Why are there 15 crosses when 14 people have been killed?’ I said, ‘The 15th one is for the next person who will die if something’s not done about these intersections,” said Meyer.
His fact-finding revealed that, since 2006, there have been 187 accidents at the three intersections.
This year, to date, there have been 46 accidents.
Numbers, cold numbers, yet they made Meyer stand in the hot sun holding his handmade sign in protest.
From time to time, he would glance across the six lanes of traffic, to where his son died. It’s the nightmare he and his wife live daily. She was at the wheel when her son was killed.
“Three years later, and still nothing has happened,” he said.
Not exactly. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has placed the words “Signal Ahead” on the pavement of each lane that leads to the signals.
Meyer believes that was a waste of time and material.
He would like an overhead warning sign, like the ones announcing the tollbooths near Milepost 20.
“They can put up a big sign telling you there is a toll booth ahead, but they can’t put one warning motorists that three traffic signals are ahead,” said Meyer, shaking his head.
He held up his sign, on his right arm that displayed a tattoo “In Loving Memory, Christopher” with some artwork and his son’s birth and death dates.
“The state says there are not enough state troopers to patrol. Let Middle Township police patrol the area and give Middle Township the fines they collect,” Meyer demanded.
“If a trooper was patrolling between the three lights, he could make enough revenue in one day to pay his salary for a week,” he continued.
“They say they can’t afford a trooper, but they have troopers at Bass River where the speed limit is 65 mph, and they give tickets for going 67 mph. Down here, the speed limit is 50 and they go 65-70 miles an hour, and nobody gives a ticket,” Meyer said.
He said he bought a device to calculate speed of vehicles, and that the average vehicle traveling the three-lanes in both directions was between 65-70 mph.
“They told me they put up those yellow signs, and they are temporary, so are the lights,” he added.
In May, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the Parkway agreed to some improvements at the Exit 0 interchange of the Garden State Parkway where numerous accidents, some with fatalities, have taken place.
“The Federal Highway Administration has provided an interim approval of those devices and the signals appear to be “great candidates” for their installation, said Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew (D-1st) at the time.
Signal Ahead alerts were installed at Milepost 0.5, 0.25, 11.6, and 11.3 and in the northbound direction Mileposts 7.8 and 8.1.
Two portable variable message signs were placed at Milepost 7.7 northbound and Milepost 11.9 southbound.
Those messages will read “Caution Reduce Speed Traffic Signals 3 Miles.”
That message resulted from a request by Meyer.
“If we do not institute some interim improvements while major improvements to these intersections are being designed, we will lose more life and limb. There is no doubt that the record of death and destruction will continue unless we clearly warn motorists of these traffic lights and intersection at Exit 0,” said Van Drew.

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