Traffic Problems in Morristown? Say It Ain't So!
A taxing intersection for many, Denise Addis offers a solution.
The holidays are coming! Soon Morristown will be filled with traffic that snakes from the hospital to the Green, from the Hyatt to the Grand Café, from South Street to Macculloch.
I am not complaining, much, it is great for Morristown business. And Morristown is small, how bad can it get, right? A quick trip that may have taken us 10 minutes before may take us 20 around the holidays–eh, it could be worse.
With so many office buildings in and around town, when people start feeling festive, Morristown is the place to go. And for that, we should be thankful for our thriving little community.
The problem is that festivities begin after work, peak rush hour. So come holiday time, Morristown traffic increases significantly with commuters who may normally jump on to 287 right from work to head home and out of Morristown, but will now head into town for the office gathering, the holiday party, the cocktail with friends, or just some holiday shopping at Century 21.
It gets gnarly out there so let's grin and bear it and always let cooler heads prevail, the holidays don't last long.
Today I have a small observation, born of moderate road rage, from the Lackawanna Triangle, as I have come to call it. This little spot is a Morristown intersection on acid where citizens who, on a normal day, probably observe most traffic laws, but here in this spot they do not. Winter, spring, summer, fall, holidays, snow days, rainy days, this is a juncture of anarchy every day (well, weekdays mostly). It is a place where green means "go" and red means "I see I have been warned but I am going anyway."
The location is where Morris Street, Elm Street and Lackawanna Place meet and intersect, directly under the train tracks next to the Morristown train station. The traffic light is blatantly disregarded here by west bounders on Morris Street who want to make a left on Elm Street.
(To be clear, "west bounders" are those headed into town, a clarification I hope you will appreciate for people like me who only know in what direction they headed at sunrise and sunset, when standing next to the ocean, on the Garden State Parkway or if they have a GPS.)
And the reason for this disregard is the unusually long distance between where you are required to stop when the light at the Morris/Elm intersection is red and how far you must drive (about seven-10 car lengths) once the light turns green to actually make the left turn onto Elm.
Think about it, we all know the unwritten rules of the basic intersection. You are at a stop light, waiting to make a left turn. The light turns green, but you must wait for oncoming traffic to pass, so what do you do? You inch up until you have driven under the traffic light and you are now IN the intersection, or, "in the box."
Now, even if that light turns back to red while you are in the box, laws do not apply, you may as well be 17 miles out at sea. Because when that light turns red, you are still going to go and everyone is going to let you, and wait for you and accept what you just did. It's like being a busty blonde.
In our minds, from this spot, we have a divine right to make the left turn even after the light turns back to red. And the reason being? Clearly, the grandfather clause. The light was green when we entered the box. Plus, how were we supposed to know that the 15 Jersey drivers coming in the other direction were not going to stop and courteously allow us the right-of-way to turn? It is shocking that they did not and now here we are stuck in the box with a red light. We must make this turn, red light or not. We all do it.
And for those that don't, you know who you are, you patient waiters, you who do not inch into the box, you traffic-law abiding citizens, you who are not easy to anger and you who try to set a good example for the rest of us who are mentally forcing you to step on your gas pedal to make you inch up and drive into the box before the light turns red, so WE behind you do not have to wait for the light to cycle again. All of you traffic do-gooders, for no justifiable Christian reason at all, we don't care for you. You bring our shortcomings to light and, well, no thank you.
So, picture this entire scenario at the Elm/Morris intersection. And consider that while the average Morristown intersection box might hold two cars, this intersection's box, in all of it's undefined glory, can fit seven cars, if not more. As many as seven cars waiting to make the left that they plan to make on green or red. Seven busty blondes who are going to do what they want, and you're going to let them.
The problem in a nutshell is this: these seven or more cars are facing a long line of oncoming traffic headed east as they leave town, the courthouse, the hotel, the Speedwell office towers, all heading for 287 via Morris Street. The people wanting to make a left are not going to get a break from the people headed to 287. The only opening comes when the light turns red, then anarchy reigns.
So, I bear witness to this little traffic travesty daily. I come home via Lafayette Avenue. I make a left on to Lackawanna Place and cut behind the rail station where I stop at a light to go straight up Elm Street. So as I sit at this light, I watch the "wanna-make-a-left-turners" pile up in the intersection and the "going-straights" not allowing them to turn. I watch the light turn red and to date have counted as many as six cars going through the light when it is fully, unmistakably red. Cars that should and could easily wait until the next green, without blocking the box because the box is so huge and undefined, just plowing through the red, making me, and everyone else wait. If they stayed put, even though they inched into this football field of an intersection, they would be of only minor inconvenience to the traffic with the right-of-way. But they know the loophole, they know they have been grandfathered, they are in the box, and they will go, red or green.
At other intersections, this is not big deal. We can see the cars that have positioned themselves in the box, they are right in front of us. We are not going to collide with them by going zero to 60 when the light turns green. But this intersection is, as I said, on acid, it is far from your basic textbook intersection. Cars, like mine, come out from behind the rail station, and let's say perhaps I was a distracted teenager who saw nothing more than the green light which says, "I have the right of way, and while texting my boyfriend I did not notice cars number five and six had not quite made it to the turn spot yet," or maybe I was a soccer mom on an urgent call with my yoga instructor, or an important businessman on an important call or any number of people who drive distracted every single day. This is a potentially serious accident waiting to happen.
I say we need a delayed green or an arrow light at this intersection before someone gets seriously injured. It can only help and certainly cannot hurt. Safe driving out there!