Two weeks ago, Hoboken city officials declared that a traffic diversion plan for Hoboken would be implemented on April 24. They said this plan would include an aggressive advertising campaign, strong signage and the rerouting of traffic on the southern end of town.
But Hudson Country prosecutor Fred Theemling, who had already stopped a barely-announced diversion plan by Mayor Anthony Russo once before, said last week the city officials had jumped the gun again. In a press release given to the Reporter Monday, Theemling put a hold on a new plan.
While Theemling and law enforcement officials from around the county had met April 12 and worked out the new plan to deal with traffic congestion at Hoboken's north and south ends during morning rush hour, he said last week that for the proposed solution to be implemented, the Jersey City traffic engineer must meet with the county's and Hoboken's engineers to coordinate a change in the entire flow of traffic in that area.
Theemling said that if an agreement can be reached by the engineers of the local municipalities, the traffic flow on the Hoboken/Jersey city border is anticipated to improve significantly. But Theemling stressed that any proposed plan will not be implemented until after the engineers meet again on Tuesday, April 24.
He also added that there would be no additional traffic diversion on the northern end of Hoboken near Weehawken until the problem of the traffic flow on the southern end is improved.
Theemling concluded that April 24 was merely a target to ascertain whether Hoboken/Jersey City and Hudson county engineers could support a plan. It was never his intention to rush into anything and it was never meant to be a date of full implementation. Not all the proposals that came out of the April 12 meeting sat well with area officials.
Despite the cooperation given to Hoboken by the Union City Police Chief Norman Bareis, Union City Mayor and Public Safety Director Brian Stack said that under no conditions would he allow Hoboken police officers to divert traffic into Union City.
At the April 12 meeting Hoboken officials proposed putting two officers at the top of the Union City Viaduct in the palisades to direct traffic on the Union City/Jersey City border.
"I didn't want Union City to be giving up any of our intersections or any streets to Hoboken police," said Stack. Stack is also concerned about where this traffic coming up from the viaduct will go. Union City already closes off 18th Street between Cliff Street and Manhattan Avenue in the mornings. This block, which is right above the Viaduct, is behind Hudson Grammar School and is already a high traffic area in the mornings. With this street closed off, cars coming into the city from Hoboken will have no choice but to turn right when they come up this way.
"This plan will cause a traffic problem in Union City," said Stack. "This plan may solve Hoboken's problems but does not solve Union City's problems. You can't just divert one town's problem onto another."
These plans are also diverting more traffic in front of Union City's two main high rise apartment buildings, Troy Towers on Manhattan Avenue and the Doric Apartment building on Palisade Avenue.
As a Hudson County freeholder, Stack is concerned about cars having to drive up the Viaduct where the road is in poor condition.
"The Viaduct is in horrendous shape," said Stack, adding that the road would not be able to be fixed until May or June when the weather gets warmer. Some cars have to move into the southbound lane just to get up the Viaduct.
At Wednesday night's Hoboken City Council meeting, the council passed two resolutions that will directly affect the traffic situation. The first is a resolution protesting NJ Transit's continued construction during rush hour periods and urging NJ Transit to perform construction during non-rush hour periods. The resolution says that the bottle necking problem along Observer Highway causes a significant inconvenience to Hoboken residents because of the extended delay in traffic and possible environmental problems resulting from the automobile emissions caused by stationary cars. It stated that this traffic problem has "endangered the lives of every Hoboken resident, due to the impediment this bottle necking causes the city of Hoboken's emergency personal delivering the most important time sensitive services."
The second resolution, which was also approved Wednesday, declares an emergent temporary condition dictating special traffic regulations. It states that the city of Hoboken is "hereby authorized to adopt special traffic regulations including the diversion of traffic in the closing of certain streets or portions thereof to motor vehicle traffic during specified hours, as it is determined that such closings are necessary to protect the safety, health and welfare of its residents, for a period not to exceed three months from the effective date."
Both resolutions passed 5-3 with council members David Roberts, Ruben Ramos and Anthony Soares dissenting. They said they were dissenting because not enough studies had been done to determine the best way to deal with the traffic.
In an interview Thursday, City Administrator George Crimmins said that this resolution is not an overstepping of the city's bounds and is not undercutting the county prosecutor's authority.
"All this does is allow the city to go to the Department of Transportation for approval of the realignment of traffic diversion that is deemed necessary to protect public safety," he said. He added that for traffic patterns to be changed, a city ordinance would have to be accepted for each individual traffic change. He said that by declaring an emergent temporary condition, the city has the ability to quickly, but temporarily, change patterns for a period no longer than three months to protect public safety.