Asbury Park's Sixth Avenue, Fifth Avenue and First Avenue Railroad Crossings are all proposed to be closed by the NJDOT. Asbury Park's Complete Streets Coalition says, "not so fast," and claims the closures will not meet any one of those goals.
Asbury Park’s Sixth Avenue, Fifth Avenue and First Avenue Railroad Crossings are all proposed to be closed by the NJDOT.
First on the chopping block is the 6th Avenue Railroad Crossing. Memorial and 6th Avenue headed east is where the Little League field is located and where the Asbury Park High School athletic fields are housed. There are also homes, a small apartment complex and the High School within walking distance. Both the Asbury Park Board of Education and the City of Asbury Park have come out in opposition to the closure. Mayor Moor reiterated his opposition at the May 24th Council meeting.
In a March 15, 2022 letter written by James Bonanno, the Acting Director of Transportation for the City of Asbury Park, makes the following pronouncement: “The Mayor and Council have expressed that they are in vehement disagreement with the recommendation to close the Sixth Avenue crossing of the railroad tracks, and the City has provided as such in writing and verbally to NJDOT several times. NJDOT provided a written response on February 16, 2022, stating that the Commissioner of the NJDOT has the authority to eliminate at-grade railroad crossings without the consent and concurrence of the respective municipality. However, NJDOT prefers to have the municipality’s consent.” Also stated, “ultimately, NJDOT may choose to close the crossing without the City’s concurrence.” Bonanno confirmed today that the City has no jurisdiction over the matter, the plans of moving forward are not known, but, “the ball remains in the court of the DOT.” Vanessa Meades from the Office of Government & Community Relations at NJDOT at [email protected] or 609-963-1982 is listed as the contact for community input on the proposed closures.
The proposed closures came from the findings of a November 2022 study commissioned by the Federal Highway Administration and the New Jersey Department of Transportation that was performed by a combination of Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) and Rowan University Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATES). The study’s NJDOT Bureau of Research (njdottechtransfer.net) goal was to identify the best places for closures to increase safety, save money and improve service. Asbury Park’s Complete Streets Coalition says, “not so fast,” and claims the closures will not meet any one of those goals.
South of the 6th Avenue Railroad Crossing are homes, McDonald’s, YES Graphics as well as All Seasons Service. Right now, the entire neighborhood has access to those businesses as well as Frank’s Deli, 7 11, and the offices and stores on Main Street. Closing the Railroad Crossing will take away accessibility and traffic will be moved to Sunset or Fifth Avenue, which is also proposed for closure in the future.
Activist and leader, Kathleen Mumma, who successfully led the charge to save Asbury’s historic boardwalk, underscored the damaging social implications of railroad crossing closures. In her statement to NJDOT she wrote, “respecting Asbury Park’s community and repairing the errors of the City’s history should direct any decisions made by NJDOT. Asbury Park was developed as a racially segregated community, and the railroad tracks were the border. Today, this division is still present, and closing west-to-east crossings in Asbury Park will not be well-received here.”
Polli Schildge, an organizer for Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition remarked, “The study cites safety as the reason for closing grade crossings. We believe that safety would be better served if the crossings were brightly lit, with upgraded gates, and flat surfaces for bike riders, walkers, and strollers. Vulnerable road users will be adversely affected, traffic congestion will likely result on other streets and intersections. And it’s inequitable – people will be cut off from accessing the city from their own street, (Holly House residents on 6th for example), causing them to take a long city block detour on foot or by bike. Emergency services and police will be impeded from getting to calls.”
Asbury Park Complete Streets is sounding the alarm, educating people about what is being proposed and asking community members to join with the organization to oppose the closures. You may contact AP Complete Streets with your concerns at [email protected].