Two pedestrian crossings in the middle of Hooper Avenue in downtown Toms River installed a decade ago to improve safety, recently were removed after concerns about their effectiveness, according to Ocean County officials.

Photo by Flickr User Dave in the triad

Ocean County Engineer Frank Scarantino recommended the crossings be removed and the Freeholder Board agreed. "What's uniquely dangerous about this location is that it's a four lane roadway and you have a shadow vehicle effect," explained Scarantino. "Very often the second lane of traffic doesn't realize that a car has stopped for a pedestrian, and time and time again because of that we have a lot of near-misses out there," he said.

Freeholder John Kelly also recalled the 2008 death of a County Security Guard in a crosswalk. 57-year-old Joann Russo was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing Hooper Avenue at 6 a.m.on January 7.

Kelly said the crosswalks initially were installed about ten years ago at the request of former, retired Assignment Judge Eugene Serpentelli. "Never did we really say that mid-street crossings are safe. We said in order to make this mid-street crossing safe we were going to take certain precautions and we've done that," Kelly said.

Kelly said removing the crosswalks was cheaper than maintaining them. "There are three safe areas to cross Hooper Avenue," said Kelly. They include the overhead pedestrian bridge on Hooper Avenue and the two traffic signal intersections at Washington Street and Madison Avenue.

Meanwhile, Scarantino said the county plans on doing an inspection of the overhead pedestrian bridge this summer. It's structurally sound, but he said there are some issues with the pointing of the bricks in the facade and glazing with the windows that cause leaking.