Editor’s note: This report has been updated to add information from council members.
By Kevin Coughlin
Everyone complains about traffic in Morristown.
On Monday, the town intends to start doing something about it.
Officials will meet with members of Arup, an international consulting and design firm that is launching a 10-month traffic study. The council approved the $300,000 project by a 6-0 vote on Thursday.
“It’s a real opportunity,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty. Arup won’t just pinpoint problems; it will propose solutions, he said.
“It’s about design, and understanding how traffic flows, where it comes from, where it’s going… This will benefit the town for decades.”
The study will aim to improve pedestrian and bicycle mobility as well as vehicular traffic, Dougherty said. Arup was chosen from six firms that submitted proposals.
Established in 1946, London-based Arup caught the world’s attention with its structural design of the Sydney Opera House.
Recent projects include the initial phase of the new Second Avenue Subway, the Fulton Street Transit Center, and JetBlue Airway’s Terminal 5 at JFK Airport.
The study will take cues from Morristown Moving Forward, an exercise that gathered public suggestions for the 2014 update of the town’s zoning master plan. A comprehensive look at traffic was a key recommendation of that effort.
Arup goals will include relieving congestion at major corridors and intersections, making the town safer and more welcoming for pedestrians, and determining how these concerns should influence future development decisions.
But is it too late? A hotel, three big apartment buildings and a triangular law office are in the planning or construction stages in Morristown, which has experienced significant growth over the last decade.
The Mayor attributes some of the traffic to state and county roads that crisscross the town; it makes sense to seek ways to improve this flow, he said. But traffic isn’t all bad, in his opinion.
On a Friday night, when the 1,300-seat Mayo Performing Arts Center has a show, and commuters are coming home to their new apartments, and visitors are flocking to downtown restaurants, “you’re going to have traffic,” Dougherty said.
“It’s a good problem to have, compared to so many communities in the state, and we can work with it,” he said.
By providing a blueprint for planners to create “shovel-ready” projects–projects that satisfy traffic requirements and address other concerns up front–this study should help the town secure millions of dollars in state and federal grants, said Council President Stefan Armington.
Eight Morristown traffic areas are scheduled for scrutiny: The historic Morristown Green; the transit district near the train station; Morris, South and Spring streets; and Speedwell, Lafayette and Ridgedale avenues.
Councilwoman Alison Deeb asked that Washington Street and the Maple Avenue/DeHart Street corridor be studied as well.
Traffic will be counted at 30 locations. Data will include the number of vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists; turning movements; and origins and destinations of travelers, according to Thursday’s presentation to the council, dubbed Morristown Making Moves.
Researchers will look for patterns, safety hazards, designs and functionality of intersections, and transit usage and ways to improve access.
And they will explore solutions including redesigned roads and intersections, tweaks to traffic regulations and parking, and new traffic signals.
All this is expected to culminate in conceptual designs for seven of the study locations (Ridgedale Avenue is excluded), along with estimates for these various remedies, including property acquisition, environmental and construction costs.