Part of Route 440 was closed for investigation on Wednesday, November 14 following the death of Christian Rodriguez, a 22-year-old Bayonne resident, who was struck on Nov. 7 by a Bayonne man driving a 2007 Acura TL. The driver drove away after the incident and was later charged with leaving the scene of an accident.
The stretch of road between 21st and 34th Streets on the six-lane Route 440 is infamously deadly for pedestrians. Rodriguez’s death was the fifth on that section of Route 440 since 2014, and the 19th traffic fatality in Hudson County in 2018. It is the stretch of road where Tyler Sellers, a 14-year-old skateboarder, was killed in 2014. A skatepark on First Street is now named for him.
Route 440 was never designed for pedestrians to cross. When it was constructed in the 1950s, it separated Bayonne’s residential East Side from the heavy industry of Bayonne’s eastern shore. Now, a new QuickChek and Burger King are open on the corner of 22nd Street and Route 440, attracting pedestrians from adjacent neighborhoods. In November, the shopping center installed benches and tables around the center to make it more accommodating for pedestrians. With apartment buildings expected to house thousands of new residents, a Costco, and a ferry terminal planned for the west side of Route 440, adjacent to the shopping center, city officials are beginning to take steps to address the problem.
“We absolutely know that it is an extremely important and urgent matter to address,” said Bayonne City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski. “We have to put a stop to these accidents. They’re horrific and nobody wants to see them happen.”
“I would feel a lot better going over the road instead of across it.”– Dara Brewster
Hours before the latest death, the Bayonne City Council passed a resolution authorizing a local concept development study for a long-discussed pedestrian bridge at 34th Street.
Funding a pedestrian walkway
A pedestrian walkway would extend over Route 440 from the walkway already constructed over the 34th Street Light Rail Station. The cost of the project would be upward of $5 million, according to the Bayonne City Planner, and is out of the city’s jurisdiction. Because Route 440 is a state road, a pedestrian walkway would have to be funded by the NJ Department of Transportation. City officials say that real estate developers with residential apartments planned may commit to help fund the walkway and Mayor James Davis has lobbied state officials to fund the project.
“If it was our roadway it would be a lot easier. We would have only our level of government to go through,” said Ashe-Nadrowski. “But going through another level makes it complicated.”
New signals were installed in early 2017 at the intersection of 21st Street and Route 440, courtesy of the Alessi Organization, the developer of Bayonne Crossings Shopping Center, that allow pedestrians more time to cross, and cutouts were installed to make the crossing accessible by wheelchair. Before the improvements, pedestrians were often stranded in the wide center median between traffic.
There may be no such thing as a safe on-street crosswalk on Route 440, considering the width of the road and the high speeds drivers often travel.
“They’re speeding all the time. It doesn’t always feel safe,” said Dara Brewster, crossing the intersection at 22nd Street and Route 440. “I would feel a lot better going over the road instead of across it.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org