Two-way traffic around the Green, Speedwell bike lanes, six-story “core” zone among Morristown Moving Forward proposals

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Move over, Buddy.

Statues of the famed guide dog and Seeing Eye founder Morris Frank could be moved out of harm’s way–a traffic island near the Morristown Green–onto a sidewalk “woonerf” if planners get their way.

Frank Morris and Buddy Walking Tour Statue Morristown
Frank Morris and Buddy, The Seeing Eye's legendary first team, would move from their traffic island to a sidewalk under one proposal in Morristown.

That’s among a pile of proposals from Thursday’s wrap-up to the week-long Morristown Moving Forward exercise.

Other ideas include a return to two-way traffic around the Green, a riverside park at Coal Avenue and Bishop Nazrey Way, and bike lanes along a portion of Speedwell Avenue.

Planners said they will fine-tune these ideas and public suggestions–which can be submitted online at Morristown Moving Forward–with a goal of presenting a revamped zoning master plan to residents in June.

The planners hope the policy document will be ready for a planning board vote in the fall. New Jersey requires a master plan upgrade every 10 years and Morristown is due, town officials said.

“None of this is scientific. It’s an art,” said Daniel Hernandez of Jonathan Rose Companies, the town planners. “It’s a quality of life plan.”

Several planning companies worked together this week in a borrowed storefront facing the historic Green. More than 90 people visited on Tuesday and Wednesday to share their concerns, pitch suggestions, and check out a pair of parking spaces converted into a cozy “parklet.”

Planning costs are being shared by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the town.

Participants have taken a two-prong approach, carving the master plan into land-use and mobility components.  The latter section includes some dramatic proposals for improving traffic flow around the Green.

Removing traffic islands from intersections–sorry, Morris and Buddy!–and reverting to four-way intersections and two-way traffic around the Green should ease traffic congestion and make it easier for pedestrians to cross the intersections, according to Phil Abramson of Jonathan Rose Companies.

Daniel Hernandez of Jonathan Rose Companies addresses Thursday gathering of Morristown Moving Forward. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Daniel Hernandez of Jonathan Rose Companies addresses Thursday gathering of Morristown Moving Forward. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

A “woonerf”–a wide boulevard shared by pedestrians and motorists–along North Park Place would halve the number of regular traffic lanes there, ostensibly further simplifying the task of crossing the roadway on foot.

Restricting Water Street to pedestrian- and bicycle traffic also would help traffic flow around the Green, said Janet Jenkins of the planning company VHB.

“These are very preliminary concepts. What we’re saying is it’s worth further study,” said Janet.

Other proposals include:

  • Adding a bike zone in each direction on Speedwell Avenue, starting beyond Sussex Avenue.
  • Creating a “core zone” of mixed-use development radiating from the Green with maximum building heights of six-, four- and three stories, the farther you range from the square.
  • Redesigning under-used Pioneer Park at Headquarters Plaza with a smaller, central space–perhaps for a market, or performances, or beer gardens–surrounded by landscaping and maybe shipping containers, modified for innovative uses.
  • Improving pedestrian access to the train station via a pedestrian ramp from Olyphant Place, extension of Lumber Street, and possibly, creation of a walkway between the NJ Transit tracks and the Highlands at Morristown Station apartments.
  • Making Wilmot Street a through-street, and adding a parking deck in the municipal lot that it serves, behind the Post Office.
  • Creating a small neighborhood green in that lot, and similar spaces throughout town, to forge a sense of place and enhance surrounding property values.

More than 60 people attended the session at the Hyatt Morristown.

“I feel energized, I feel like people care,” said Michael Schmidt, a Morristown High alumnus who serves on the zoning board. “It’s nice to see your thoughts…repeated by other people.  It confirms that your thoughts are not crazy.”

“I’m thrilled they’ve embraced the bicycle plan and our Complete Streets plan,” said Councilman Stefan Armington.

Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman was upbeat, too.

“I like the idea of integrating mobility and land use, and I like the idea of providing ideas online. And I like the idea of finally taking the good ideas that people have shared for the last 10 years and putting them in a form where developers know what we want, and we can give it to them,” Rebecca said.

MORE ABOUT ‘MORRISTOWN MOVING FORWARD’

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