Metuchen Mayoral Candidate Lebar Addresses Transportational Issues

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Metuchen GOP Mayoral hopeful Dan Lebar has been sounding off at public meetings lately. Nothing unusual about that.  Budding politicians traditionally utilize comments from the public 'open mike time' at local governing body sessions to 'make a name for themselves', but on the face of it, Lebar's appearances were at seemingly unconventional place - Middlesex County Freeholder Board. 

Lebar explains, "When it comes to 'hyper local' questions solely within municipal control, and Metuchen has its fair share, Mayor and Council along with relevant agency officials will hear from me directly but as 'hole in the donut' (surrounded entirely by Edison Township) crossroads community, the Borough often confronts multi-jurisdictional transportation questions calling for special handling".

During his June Primary write-in campaign that won Lebar the GOP nomination, a series of  Letters to the Editor published in Greater Media's 'Sentinel' regional weekly caught his eye. "The complaining letter writer's home is at intersection of Amboy Avenue (County Route 501) and Eggert Avenue, a local street that after crossing Woodbridge Avenue (County Rte  660) becomes inter-municipal, jurisdictionally still local Grove Avenue. Under Metuchen's Borough Code Section 185-18 Eggert-Grove and all other municipal thoroughfares categorically exclude trucks over 4 ton gross vehicle weight (sole exception -  pick up and delivery of materials). Unfortunately, the most comprehensively descriptive 'no trucks' weight limit prohibition  is erected on Eggert after offending vehicles have already turned off Amboy, Woodbridge Ave then being sole lawful bailout".

Lebar continues, "from outward appearance, Grove Avenue has all attributes of a County road, akin to Main Street (Route 531), Central Avenue (Route 669), Plainfield Road (Route 531), Amboy and Woodridge. Along its course through Metuchen and north Edison it intersects with NJ State Hwy 27, Oak Tree Road (County Route 604), New Dover Road (County Route 650 within Colonia) finally terminating at Inman Avenue. No surprise, it's a popular 'cut-through' for landscape contractors operating fully loaded dump trucks headed to north County work sites towing flatbeds bearing earth moving equipment, a combination easily breaching the tonnage limit. Apart from irksome sidewalk and curb fracturing at Amboy unquestionably resulting from repeated heavyweight vehicle tire rollovers, nuisance of building vibrations, telecom interruptions from lines being torn down by tractor trailers and other over height vehicles, a preeminent concern is maintaining structural integrity, 'orphan' bridge over Conrail's Port Reading 'Chemical Coast' freight railroad line located just before entrance to Metuchen High School. That bridge's superstructure is comprised of same 'horse & buggy' era wood planking and masonry as prevailed on State Highway 27 RR overpasses north of Grove and at Lake Ave over County Greenway (abandoned Lehigh Valley-Conrail RR right-of-way) before NJDOT's recently completed multi-year replacement projects. Loss of Grove Ave crossing would present an untrammeled traffic nightmare".

"From transportation planners and anecdotally", Lebar observes, "effective road signage must be set up like 'old-style Burma Shave roadside advertising. You've got to drill into motor vehicle driver consciousness specific behavior sought to be achieved. On all our high speed roads - New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Atlantic City Expressway -  upcoming service areas, exit ramps are repeatedly stated at specific milepost intervals so you don't miss them, then having to stop and back up. Similarly, appropriate sign progression along Amboy beginning at Borough border several blocks before Eggert is essential, coupled with sustained police enforcement. [Letter to Sentinel's Editor from North Edison resident describes same problem, different location - Stephenville Parkway]."

Additional issues raised by Metuchen homeowner, unstable manhole covers engendering ceaseless, resonating 'drum roll' concussive sounds, ponding after sustained precipitation leading to dangerous 'skating rink' road conditions in Winter are 'tip of iceberg' scenarios, Lebar adds. "Turns out, manhole cover instability is systemic problem. All over, you'll see repavement circles or squares surrounding them denoting post road resurface project drill outs to reset lids and in some instances, decommission them [on Lake near soon to be demolished Veterans Hall following Highway 27 bridge replacement]. On Amboy at County Route 514 [Woodbridge Avenue]  ponding problem is severe due to absence of catch basins."

Unraveling vexing transportation-related mare's nest 'punch lists' like these is familiar territory to Lebar, 20-year member of Middlesex County Transportation Coordinating Committee, paralleling 17 years' service (January 1995 to October 2012) on Metuchen's Traffic and Transportation Advisory Committee.

Lebar notes, "I was named to Middlesex County TCC January 1992 while still member of Borough's Cable TV Advisory Committee (now known as TV & Technology). First time I attended County agency meeting, commenting on Metuchen issue, Borough's rep was taken aback because I hadn't 'checked in' with local Committee but sometimes it's simpler to work from 'top down' instead of 'bottom up' or whatever 'the book says'. Years later, as duly-appointed member and member-elected chairman, Traffic Committee observed spalling of supporting stonework within Amtrak owned northeast corridor Main Street pedestrian passageway. Situation struck us all as emergency 'loss prevention' matter. So, as then actively practicing attorney, I didn't hesitate to fire off memo directly to Amtrak's corporate counsel under my office letterhead relaying our Committee's concerns, accompanied by supporting digital photographic prints supplied by one of our members, instead of following traditional government protocol, 'standing by' for response while condition worsened. It worked. Promptly, Amtrak officials conducted essential bridge inspection assessing stone wall's state, cleaned up flaked stone and fallen concrete debris, effected masonry repairs abating problem, granting us all some peace of mind. Before that, I took similar preventive action to urge clearance of  dead trees off Amtrak-owned embankment at Lake. Lines of communication between Amtrak and Metuchen Borough officials have improved somewhat but there's plenty of unfinished work at Main Street. Amtrak retains responsibility for maintenance and repair of height warning blinkers (often dislodged or entirely wiped out in over height collisions); NJ Transit services passageway illumination, access stairs to platform, platform itself but continuing potential tripping hazard from broken, missing sidewalk segments within pedestrian passage along southbound Main Street remains unsettled, not to mention overall platform modernization consistent with what's been provided other towns throughout the commuter rail system, extension of west (Philadelphia) bound side to accommodate lengthier trains, provide riders direct, uninterrupted  access from train into Pearl Street parking garage now under construction."

Lebar concludes. "going the extra mile" to provide top drawer constituent service means exactly what it says."

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