After 17-year-old Antwan Timbers was killed while walking along the highway last May, high school students were inspired to begin a campaign, “25 Saves Lives,” to improve safety along the corridor.
His death also moved State Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, to introduce legislation to raise traffic fines and permit towns and counties to reduce the speed limit on municipal or county roads directly adjacent to a school, to be in effect at all times rather than just the hours when students are traveling to or from school.
“Route 130 is the state’s most dangerous road for pedestrians year after year, with at least four deaths reported in the first three months of 2017 in Burlington County,” Allen said. "We don’t want to see any more of our children, friends or neighbors fall victim to this dangerous highway.”
Before those efforts, the city in 2015 requested the state transportation department do a traffic study to determine how to make highway conditions safer for pedestrians and drivers alike.
The department decided to reduce lanes to increase congestion and slow down speedy drivers, Fine said.
The state is also considering redesigning the intersection at Route 130 and Columbus Road, he said. A spokesperson from the state DOT was not available for comment Tuesday.
Fine said multiple residents have called the police department to inquire about the lane reductions and new traffic pattern since it was unveiled last week. He noted that Route 130 narrows to two lanes in the northern part of the county in Burlington Township and Bordentown Township.
“We will certainly adapt to the changes like everyone else will and make it as safe as possible,” he said.
Beverly resident Mary Keller has found it difficult to adjust to driving in two lanes. She said she was cut off by another vehicle Tuesday when the other driver realized there was no longer a third lane.
“I think it’s going to make people even more nuts,” she said.
Cathy Reeder, of Burlington City, said drivers should have been notified earlier to prepare for the change. The Police Department spread the word through social media and state crews placed signs on the road in both directions last week.
“There didn’t seem to be any warning at all,” she said.
Motorists won’t know the true impact of the changes until next week when students return to school, officials cautioned.
“A lot of this is yet to be seen,” Fine said.
But officials remain hopeful that there has been and will be more improvement.
While speeding remains a problem, county Undersheriff Bryan Norcross said drivers have slowed down in the school zone since the county implemented the Route 130 Safe Passage initiative in 2013, which involves stepped-up enforcement of speeders and distracted drivers. The county Sheriff's Department has undertaken several initiatives with the city police to help slow traffic, including driving along in the morning and afternoon rush hours to pace vehicles at the slower speed limit. Speeds have also come down during regular hours, too.
“We’re now seeing cars that are only in the 40s. We were seeing speeds in the 60s,” Norcross said. “In this school zone we are definitely seeing an improvement.”