A persistently dangerous local road is now tied with three others for the dubious distinction of being the deadliest road for pedestrians in New Jersey.
The Black Horse Pike in Atlantic County, along with major highways in Burlington and Middlesex counties, each saw nine pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2011. The other local road the report named was Route 9 in Ocean County, which tied for sixth deadliest, with six deaths between 2009 and 2011.
The roads were identified in the annual safety report put out by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional road safety advocacy group interested in New Jersey, Connecticut and southern New York roads.
This is not the first time the Black Horse Pike made the list. On average, several pedestrians die on that road every year. The campaign has repeatedly highlighted the thoroughfare as one of the state’s most dangerous.
By its count, 18 pedestrians were killed on the road between 2005 and 2011.
These include Patricia Ayala, 33, of Pleasantville, who was struck and killed May 10, 2011, when she started to walk across the Black Horse Pike near Main Street without looking, police said.
The next day, James P. Bleeker, 51, of Egg Harbor Township, was struck and killed crossing the pike at Brenta Avenue in the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township around 9:15 p.m., police said
No charges were filed in either incident, police said.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a New York City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing car dependency, according to its website. Environmental and planning organizations formed the group in the early 1990s promising reforms in federal transportation policy. It started issuing these reports in 2008, using the previous three years worth of data. Since the first report, the Black Horse Pike’s ranking has remained between the second- and seventh-deadliest in the entire state.
The Black Horse Pike starts as Albany Avenue in Atlantic City, one of the major local ways in and out of Absecon Island for pedestrians, drivers and bikers. But the car-centric nature of the road is shown by absence of bike lanes, the lack of sidewalks alongside much of the busy road and the consequent dirt paths worn down alongside the road.
Atlantic City High School, located along the stretch, lacks a sidewalk connection with the city, even though teenage students are a common sight walking along the road.
In Pleasantville, the speed limit drops to 40 mph as the road narrows and passes through residential neighborhoods. Shopping centers then line most of the road in Egg Harbor and Hamilton townships, along with some housing complexes.
All of this can be deadly to pedestrians, the advocacy group said.
More than 60 percent of pedestrian deaths in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York occur on arterial roads, the report said. These are roads of two or more lanes, designed for vehicles to go at least 40 mph.
“Arterials were traditionally designed to move vehicles from one destination to the next without regard for other road users like pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Renata Silberblatt, the staff analyst and author of the report. “We continue to see that designing roads like this results in needless loss of life.”
Matthew Norris, with the campaign, said the state Department of Transportation has improved some sidewalks, but more could be done. These include reducing the distance between safe crossings, which are now up to one-half mile apart.
“These types of improvements can go a lot way to make this safer,” Norris said.
In Pleasantville, police Sgt. Herbert Simons, traffic supervisor, said the city has tried to use increased enforcement through its specially designated “safe corridor.” That designation can lead to additional penalties to speeding motorists, traditionally a major problem.
He also said city officials have met with officials in other jurisdictions to contemplate better signs and more sidewalks, although these remain to be built. He said, “We do whatever we can humanly possible to combat it.”
Dennis Levinson, the Atlantic County executive, said the state is responsible for the road. Still, he said, the county put up fences in Hamilton Township to force pedestrians to use distant crosswalks. He said the fences were soon found to be cut.
He also said pedestrians need to exercise more caution: “Part of the problem is that pedestrians will walk out their front door and walk across the street without paying attention,” Levinson said. “That’s been our problem here in the county. Most of the accidents, many of them, are preventable with common sense.”
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