Clark OKs new traffic light in front of ALJ, police HQ

The intersection of Wilson Drive and Westfield Avenue in Clark is set to get a traffic light.

CLARK, N.J. — The township could be getting a new traffic light on Westfield Avenue between police headquarters and Arthur L. Johnson High School if the state gives its approval.

The Township Council gave unanimous approval at its Aug. 19 meeting to install the light where Wilson Drive and Emerald Place intersect with Westfield Avenue.

The municipality plans to begin construction once it receives approval for the project from the state Department of Transportation, which must give its OK for all traffic lights. While a construction date is uncertain, Business Administrator John Laezza predicts that it likely won’t occur before July 2020. The council has not yet decided on a construction company for the work.

Clark has applied for a $225,000 grant from the Department of Transportation for not only the light but for re-engineering and reconstructing the intersection. Emerald Place and Wilson Drive are slightly askew from each other, and officials have said the Clark Board of Education has agreed to cede some property on the high school grounds to shift Wilson Drive to make the crossing a true intersection.

Because Wilson Drive, foreground, and Emerald Place, far side, are not aligned, the intersection will need to be re-engineered before a traffic light can be installed.

Moreover, as part of the project, an unnamed paved roadway that goes between the police headquarters and the public library parallel to Wilson Drive and curves behind the police station will be named Waterson Drive Road in honor of Patrolman William Waterson, who died in the line of duty in 1971.

The plans for the traffic signal coincide with plans for the township to erect a new $8.25 million police headquarters behind the existing structure. The latest announced plans were for construction to begin in December and take about a year to complete. The current building would be razed and the space paved for a parking lot.

The traffic light ordinance was introduced following a discussion between Mayor Sal Bonaccorso and Clark Police Chief Pedro Matos as a response to growing traffic along Westfield Avenue and to mitigate risk with a new traffic pattern. Westfield Avenue is one of a handful of major thoroughfares between Clark and Rahway to the south and east.

Officials have said at previous meetings that traffic increases during the school year, especially between 7:15 and 8:30 a.m., and between 2:15 and 3:15 p.m., which coincides with the arrival and dismissal times of the high school.

The council urged careful driving in those areas, especially when schools reopen in the next few weeks.

In addition to the traffic light, the council announced that the Clark Public Library has received a new digital sign. The Columbia Bank Foundation, the charitable arm of the Fair Lawn-based company, provided the money for the sign after the volunteer “Friends of the Clark Library” submitted an application for the grant.