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Covered Pedestrian Signals at Red Light Camera Intersection Raises Questions

Why are the pedestrian crossing signals at Route 1 and Avenel Street covered? Woodbridge motorists who hate red light cameras think it has something to do with generating more tickets - and revenue.

Motorists who hate the state's red light camera program have tried to make that case that fears of getting a ticket can cause indecisive drivers to get into accidents the cameras are designed to alleviate.

In Woodbridge, though, the r at Route 1 and Avenel Street might prove to be even more dangerous to pedestrians. That's because the pedestrian crossing signals at the busy highway have all been mysteriously covered over with what looks like black plastic garbage bags.

Callers to Patch have said that the pedestrian signals have been covered for "some time," leaving adults and children who want to cross Route 1 without any electronic guidance for getting across the highly traveled roadway.

The red camera light at Avenel Street, throughout the township, is part of a pilot program run by the NJ Department of Transportation (NJDOT). It was also the only red light camera intersection in Woodbridge to be by the state, because of questions on whether the timing of the yellow traffic signal had been properly certified. 

NJDOT also has oversight of the pedestrian signals that are timed to coincide with the traffic signals, with or without traffic cameras in tow.

As of Wednesday, NJDOT officials didn't know who was responsible for covering the pedestrian crossing signals, or why it was done.

"It would have had to have been approved by DOT," said spokesman Tim Greeley. "Whether or not it would've been done by one of our crews, or by the local police department with DOT approval, I don't want to speculate."

Greeley couldn't give a reason why the pedestrian crossing signals would have been covered.

Of the other three red light camera sites in Woodbridge, only the Gill Lane intersection has a pedestrian crossing signal, which was not covered. 

Woodbridge police authorities could not be reached for comment.

But many people, in and out of the township, said they believed the pedestrian traffic signals had been covered because such signals can be seen by motorists, and give drivers a head's up on when the light is about to turn. Particularly helpful to both motorists and the walking public are pedestrian signals which give a countdown as to when the signal is going to change.

John J. White of Colonia thinks those type of signals are too helpful to drivers, in that they interfere with the generation of red light camera tickets.

"It's a set up," said White, who was earlier this year after allegedly sailing through a red light at Route 1 and Gill Lane in Iselin.

"I don't think it has anything to do with the pedestrians. They don't get any revenue from them. It's all about how much money they can produce from the red light," he said.

Many critics of the red light camera system say that it has much less to do with reducing accidents than it does about creating income for the municipalities and the state. 

The Avenel Street red light camera of which Woodbridge retained $632,837. The flow of money was temporarily disrupted when the state shut the camera off until the yellow signal light could be properly calibrated. The cameras and the fines started again on July 27.

Not everyone thought the pedestrian signal covering was necessarily sinister. Steve Carrellas, director of Government and Public Affairs for the New Jersey chapter of the National Motorists Association, thought the sheathing could be because the signals were malfunctioning.

"Maybe the signals are giving wrong info and have to be covered, or it's a way to say they're shut down because there's a problem. That would be in the best interest in ped and motorist safety," he said.

Carrellas' group is strongly opposed to red light cameras. He thought that public interest in the Avenel Street red camera lights was encouraging.

"I'm glad people are noticing. They should go to their town council and get them to pull out of the program, or call their state senators and assemblymen," Carrellas said. "There are bills in both houses of the legislature to stop red light cameras in New Jersey."

(If you want more information on how to fight a red light ticket, or you want to join together to help get the program eliminated, contact the National Motorists Association at this site.)

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Tom Maras August 16, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Kudos Ms. Bell for bring this to the attention of the public. Those pedestrian control lights have been out for a longtime. My conversation with a former high ranking Woodbridge police official, many months ago, confirmed the police and township official knew they were not working. The covering of those pedestrian safety control signals is a more recent event; one that may be more about protecting the latest money grabbing scheme by politicians (see: http://www.nj.com/sunbeam-voices/index.ssf/2012/07/editorial_red-light_camera_gam.html), than it is about public safety. Thanks to a recent OPRA request, documents show Woodbridge Township signed a five (5)year Professional Service “Agreement” with American Traffic Solutions (ATS), Inc., in April 2009. That fact alone is rather interesting, because as Woodbridge Town Council President, Gregory M. Ficarra just recently stated at a town council meeting, the township is working with the state on the two (2) year Right Light Camera Pilot Program. So, why the FIVE (5) Year “Agreement”, one in Woodbridge leases the “System” and pays ATS a monthly flat rate for the system? No wonder people cannot afford to lose their money to the One- Armed Bandits at the state backed casinos in Atlantic City, they are already giving their hard earned money to the municipal Red Light Bandits! Good luck to the public with those odds!!
James C. Walker August 16, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Mr. Carrellas is correct. Citizens should contact their Assemblymen and Senators to ask them to support the bills to ban red light cameras statewide. Citizens should also contact their local officials to ask the local governments to remove the cameras in their jurisdictions. Red light cameras are a business partnership between a camera company and a government entity that want to share in the money to be collected - with little or no realistic prospects of reducing accidents - and some chance the cameras will raise the accident risks. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI
So Much to Say August 16, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Woodbridge police authorities could not be reached for comment. That in itself says it all.
John J. White August 16, 2012 at 05:41 PM
John J. White If the Pedestrian signal works properly is it possible that the driver can have advanced notice when the light is going to change? If so would that would mean less revenue generated by the Red Light $cameras. A great idea would be to install Red Light timers to alert the driver that the light will be changing in a fe seconds, no more guessing games. It would really be a great safety feature as drivers would see the time and could decide to stop their car rather that try to beat the red light by flying through the intersection or slamming the brakes and cause an accident. It may even allow for more acceptance of the dreaded Red Light $cameras as only the most blatant drivers would get a ticket. Taking a bullet to the Red Light $camera like they did in Newark is certainly not the answer.
Ted Pastuszak Jr. August 16, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I do not believe some of the lights on Route 1 stay green long enough for a pedestrian to safely cross the highway. I discovered this when I tried to cross the intersection by the old Premium Diner several years ago. If you walk at a moderate pace, the light will turn when you are only 3/4 of the way across the four lanes.
Deborah Bell (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 06:15 PM
You know, I've sat at the Avenel St. light when pedestrians are crossing, and you're right. They usually wind up semi-running over at least one lane by the time the light changes.
7 out August 16, 2012 at 06:47 PM
This stinks almost as much as the Parsons deal under Whitman. Are we still paying for that? Also, why don't we get charged for car inspection when we register our cars yet don't get the inspection anymore?
Brandt Hardin August 17, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Traffic cameras are just another form of Policing for Profit as Capitalism distorts our Justice System. These companies are bottom-feeders and take a 40% cut of the tickets while creating MORE dangerous intersections by fixing the lengths of yellow lights to entrap drivers. You can read about how private companies and crooked politicians have turned our Police forces on their ear in every attempt to squeeze money out of the general public at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-privatized-police-state.html
AR August 17, 2012 at 01:07 AM
They were never any pedestrian signals at that intersection. They were just installed. Also looks like they'll be adding a left turn signal from Avenel St to Route 1&9 North.
Gary Introne August 17, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Perfectly on the money. top to bottom, this entire system is corrupt. Nicely said.
Jane August 17, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Rather than cover the pedestrian crossing signals, let's see those big black bags cover the red light cameras. That would be a step in the right direction!
Tom Maras August 17, 2012 at 01:42 PM
AR, Did you just move here? The pedestrian control signals have been there a longtime, as records while show. Like wise, they have not worked for a longtime and the police knew it!
Tom Maras August 17, 2012 at 03:08 PM
AR, Please read page B2 of the August 17 edition of the Home News Tribune. Seems Woodbridge spokesman, John Hagerty, statements do not support your assertion as to when the signals were initially installed. Of course, he blames their not working on a month old traffic accident. I know police officers and councilmen would could differ with him. Shame, shame, shame on him for not knowing the truth or for...!
Tom Maras August 17, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Jane, If that happened, how would the money grabbing politicians and their paid lackeys on the taxpayer dole find another cash cow to replace this one?
AR August 17, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Lived in Avenel down the block from this intersection for 30 years. Show me on these pictures from this very website where they are? http://woodbridge.patch.com/articles/kindergarten-student-narrowly-averts-disaster#photo-4452936
James C. Walker August 18, 2012 at 12:53 AM
True, Mr. White, but if only blatant drivers got tickets the entire $camera system would go bankrupt. The system depends upon being able to give most tickets to safe drivers in order to generate revenue above the high costs of the cameras which is typically $4,000 to $5,000 per month per camera. If only the bad guys could get tickets, the cameras would never have been deployed. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association
gam August 18, 2012 at 04:25 PM
AR you are correct. THey were not there several weeks ago!!! I myself have discussed and advocated for the pedestrian signals going back as far as Mayor Pelzman!!
Tom Maras August 19, 2012 at 03:34 PM
To AR and ("I myself") gam, perhaps you should scroll up and look at the new uploaded photos, taken yesterday at the Avenel/Rt1 intersection corners and then tell everyone just when and how it was you failed to notice which are the new and which are the older pedestrian control lights. Oh, AR, follow your own link to http://woodbridge.patch.com/articles/kindergarten-student-narrowly-averts-disaster#photo-4452936 an note the store ran January 14, 2011! The stanchion didn't have a control light on it them, but the one one it is bagged. Perhaps, you and gam should take a walk to the intersection together and compare notes. After you do, call Messrs. McCormac and Haggerty and tell them your findings. After all, safety, especially child safety, comes before revenue makers, does it not.
Bucky Winters August 19, 2012 at 04:09 PM
The Avenel Street red light camera generated $1.240 million in income, of which Woodbridge retained $632,837. Where did all this money go? How much is going to Joe Spicuzzo's defense fund? Red Light cameras...What next in the Democratic People's Republic of Woodbridge? I don't need to be surveilled by the government nor do I need to be paying them any more money? How about stopping all the car jackings, violent crime, and robberies?
Bucky Winters August 19, 2012 at 04:09 PM
The Avenel Street red light camera generated $1.240 million in income, of which Woodbridge retained $632,837. Where did all this money go? How much is going to Joe Spicuzzo's defense fund? Red Light cameras...What next in the Democratic People's Republic of Woodbridge? I don't need to be surveilled by the government nor do I need to be paying them any more money! How about stopping all the car jackings, violent crime, and robberies?
AR August 19, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Go to Google streetview, which shows that this intersection has nothing going back to 2009. That post is still there with nothing on it, just a button probably. I've lived here a long time and know that intersection very well. http://goo.gl/maps/HI4Fw http://goo.gl/maps/fmidn
gam August 19, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Mr Maras. The Avenel St and route 1 intersection has had a button to push for the light for decades. I assumed incorrectly when they installed the red light cameras they would also install a pedestrian countdown device which I had requested years earlier from Mayor Pelzman. It was not installed then and there is still no working pedestrian walk/countdown signal.
Tom Maras August 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM
gam, thank you for the additional information. It certainly goes to the point that MONEY comes First, Safety comes Second. There are adults and children who have to use that intersection, perhaps for school or church or just to go to the QuickChek. In a township that can literally move part of a mountain atop a capped landfill, for a miniature golf course (which costs a lot of $$$ for consultants, studies, DEP permitting, design and construction) in a few mere months, why has it taken so long to ensure public safety at this major intersection? Look north and south on Route 1 and see how far it is to a safe, signal controlled pedestrian crossing. There isn’t one to be seen. But there are a lot of concrete barriers separating the roadway. Barriers that for those who are willing to risk their lives, must jump. Tragically, we read all too often how someone did not make it to the other side. Perhaps, like the, “which came first, the chicken or the egg”, conundrum, residence will have to ponder; which comes first in Woodbridge Township, the Red Light Camera or the Pedestrian Control Lights?
Ted Pastuszak Jr. August 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Presumably, the DOT (or someone) must have a recommended duration (depending on the width of the road) to allow for pedestrian crossing. Most likely, these lights are not set green long enough to meet that, which was probably discovered when the pedestrian signal was being installed. On one hand, no one probably wants to lengthen the time of the light, and on the other hand, you can't encourage pedestrians to cross the highway, since there may not be sufficient time. There would be a liability should someone get injured. Last point: On the intersection of Avenel Street and Route 1, you can easily gauge the number of cars that can safely cross Route 1 before the light turns: It is really no more than six cars. So if you're in line and you're the sixth or seventh car, it probably is best to brake and wait, because you'll never make it across on the caution. The typical approach speed at that intersection can't be more than 25 mph, so the light changes to red fast.
gam August 20, 2012 at 10:52 PM
"AR, Did you just move here? The pedestrian control signals have been there a longtime, as records while show. Like wise, they have not worked for a longtime and the police knew it"- Interesting Mr Maras that a news article in the HNT today supports AR and myself in our claim that these pedestrian traffic controls have NOT been at this intersection site for long. Apology in order for your sarcastic responses.
Tom Maras August 21, 2012 at 12:51 PM
According to the August 21st Edition of the Home News Tribune, the pedestrian safety signals at the intersections of Rt.1 and Avenel Street will be operational in a week. Let's hope with all the "LIGHTS" at that intersection, motorists and pedestrians alike will be safer. Wonder if they installed "Jaywalking" cameras too!

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