Summit sidewalk plan calls for revisiting school walking routes

Images Courtesy of the City of Summit
Proposed alternate walking routes for students at Summit’s Franklin and Washington elementary schools were presented at the March 5 Summit Common Council meeting. Officials said the reason for the proposed new routes was that new traffic signals have been installed throughout the city, a decade after the current paths were established.

SUMMIT, NJ — The city’s updated sidewalk master plan calls for re-evaluating the elementary schools’ walking routes, which are about a decade old.

The city’s engineer, Aaron Schrager, updated and presented the Summit Common Council with recommendations for updates at the March 5 meeting regarding the city’s sidewalk installation and maintenance plan.

Schrager said that the middle and high school walking routes have sufficient sidewalk networks so they won’t be revisited.
The engineering department conducted a School Travel Mode Survey at each of the seven schools and two primary centers in the district during a three-day period in November 2017 and found that between 20 and 25 percent of children were walking to school, Assistant Engineer Rick Matias told the council.

“This is really a significant amount,” Matias said.
In the survey, parents and children were asked if they walk, bike, take a bus or car, carpool or use mass transit to get to school.
“The idea that our schools are supposed to be walkable is important, and I think that’s something we owe to our community — to make those schools truly safe and walkable,” Councilwoman Marjorie Fox said after the presentation.

Matias explained that a sidewalk specifically refers to a concrete sidewalk, not an asphalt, dirt or gravel path.
Routes will be reviewed by police and the Summit Board of Education to “ensure those are the right routes and to also better promote them and to get them readily available,” Schrager said.

He also said one reason they need to be re-evaluated is due to new traffic signals that have been installed since the routes were created a decade ago.

Additional sidewalk locations include New Providence Avenue from Passaic Avenue to the Transfer Station; Hobart Avenue from Whittredge Road to the Reeves-Reed Arboretum; Woodland Avenue from Bedford Road to Canoe Brook Parkway, and Glenside Avenue from Baltusrol Road to Glenside Field.
Schrager said it costs the city about $35 per foot to install a concrete sidewalk, depending on how many trees conflict with the installation.

The cost of adding sections of sidewalk that aren’t deemed part of a walking route in city ordinances would be the private property owner’s responsibility, according to Schrager.
The engineers also recommended checking that all walking routes have consistency between city policies and ordinances because some areas conflict regarding guidelines.

“They don’t conflict everywhere, but it would be beneficial to have them all at least referring to an agency that gives us adequate guidelines,” Schrager said.
Common Council President David Naidu told the engineers that the council most likely will vote on the plan at the April 2 regular meeting.

Both Naidu and Councilwoman Beth Little agreed that sidewalks are a major concern among Summit residents.
“Sidewalks are a huge issue among residents because of the fact that we have increased congestion in town. As we all know, we’ve taken many measures through the police department to try and address the issue of pedestrian safety,” Naidu said. “One of the huge problems is when sidewalks end and then people are walking the street.”

Little also added that when she attended the National Planning Conference a few weeks ago, it was evident that having safe sidewalks in a community is a priority.

“Walkable cities are really what people are looking for and it’s one of the key components in keeping a community vibrant and healthy,” she said.

Councilman Mike McTernan also suggested that the sidewalk plans connect to the Summit Park Line once that project is finished.
The Park Line “is a connector,” he said. “I know that there are steps to make that possible but if this does go through, I would hope that we would be able to incorporate that into this because unlike most parks, this one is a connector.”