Road mural created as traffic calming device at Red Bank intersection

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RED BANK – What is that?

That is the question residents and visitors have when they cross the intersection of South Bridge Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard in Red Bank.

In the center of the asymmetrical four-way intersection, a large yellow sun on a turquoise background has been painted. Municipal officials have said the mural is a temporary traffic calming measure that is intended to deteriorate over time.

Once the painting fades away, officials said, they could try alternate traffic calming measures at what has been described as an accident-prone intersection.

As she stood at the intersection on June 5, Councilwoman Kate Triggiano called the road art tactical urbanism – a low-cost, temporary change to the environment that is intended to improve neighborhoods and cities.

The mural forces motorists to slow down as they travel through the intersection, said Charles Brown, one of the project’s partners, in an interview before the event.

Brown said the mural attracts and retains the attention of motorists.

“(The mural) increases the likelihood that drivers will slow down at an intersection that could otherwise be dangerous. It also adds an art feature to the community. This is a beautiful element that is guided by the community … By doing a tactile urbanism project, what you get is the ability to pilot and test an idea before you spend money to make it permanent,” Brown said.

Asked if the mural could be distracting to motorists who are unaware the painting exists until they drive through the intersection, Brown said, “That’s part of the purpose. Distraction aids in drivers slowing down. If (the mural) gets your attention, you are more likely to slow down and focus on pedestrians who are vulnerable.”

The intersection does not have a traffic light and there are several crosswalks at the location.

Before a traffic light is installed, if ever, officials said they want to evaluate this low-cost traffic calming measure to determine whether the painting improves what officials have described as a problematic intersection.

In addition to the mural that has been painted on the pavement, parking has been restricted near the crosswalks, Brown said.

During the event, municipal officials praised the temporary traffic calming measure.

Douglas Greenfeld, Manager of Sustainability and Plan Development at the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), said “This project is showing people it is possible to test different concepts.”

Brown said he submitted a survey to residents. From the answers he received, Brown said pedestrians said they “felt safer” after the mural was painted.

According to a June 3 statement from Melissa Hayes, Senior Manager of Outreach at the NJTPA, “We provided Red Bank with $10,000 in technical assistance for this project through our Complete Streets Technical Assistance Program. Sustainable Jersey and the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University provided the technical assistance as part of our program.”

Nancy Blackwood, who serves on the Red Bank Environmental Commission and the Red Bank Green Team, said, “we worked hard to get the technical assistance” that was needed to complete the project.

“Where else can we do this? I want to ruffle some feathers,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said, noting that some individuals have taken to social media to express apprehension about the road mural.

Officials said they would consider painting road murals in other parts of the borough. Menna joked that the next visual would feature a profile of Councilman Hazim Yassin.