The stretch of Route 47 that runs between the Cumberland Mall and other local shopping centers is four lanes wide and busy.
On any given day, pedestrians dash across the highway as they either move between those shopping centers or get to bus stops.
While that presents a safety hazard for pedestrians similar to that on the Black Horse Pike near the Hamilton Mall and built-up portions of the White Horse Pike, Vineland police say the real danger locally occurs farther north on Route 47. That is where the road, also known as Delsea Drive, becomes a two-lane highway that weaves between even more stores and small strip malls.
There, and especially between Chestnut and Park avenues, pedestrians are crossing the highway anywhere they choose and not near traffic signals or in crosswalks. The results can be deadly.
Two pedestrians have died since September as they tried to cross Route 47.
Authorities know about the problem and are doing what they can to make a dangerous situation safer, Sgt. Peter D’Arrigo of the Police Department’s Traffic Unit said.
But, D’Arrigo said, that primarily means having police just wait for someone to jaywalk. That is nearly impossible to do for a traffic unit concentrating on enforcing motor-vehicle violations and dealing with accidents, he said.
City officials are unsure what the solution is.
City Council President Peter Coccaro said Route 47 is a state highway. Anything the city might want to do must be approved by the state Department of Transportation, he said.
Coccaro is no stranger to the jaywalking problem on Route 47. He is a former city police officer who dealt with that problem many times in the past.
“There’s actually no legitimate crossing area,” he said of many sections of Route 47 where traffic signals and crosswalks are a significant distance apart. “They just jaywalk. We’ve had some issues with pedestrians.”
One of those pedestrians was city resident Marcial Vargas-Lopez, 61, who died after being hit by a car as he tried to cross Route 47 near Chestnut Avenue about 9:20 p.m. Sept. 16. Vargas-Lopez walked out in front of the oncoming vehicle, city officials said.
On Nov. 23, Richard Whilden, 42, died after being hit by a vehicle on the 3000 block of Route 47. The 8 p.m. incident occurred as the homeless Whilden was trying to get to some woods to reach a makeshift shelter, police said.
State Police records show there have been 19 traffic-related fatalities in Cumberland County this year. Six of those fatalities occurred on Route 47, and four occurred in Vineland.
Route 47 runs for more than 70 miles between Atlantic Avenue in Wildwood, Cape May County, and Route 130 in Brooklawn, Camden County.
State and local officials have for years considered Route 47 to be dangerous because of the high volume of traffic it carries, especially during the summer.
A portion of Route 47 that runs for about 10 miles between Route 49 in Millville and an area just north of Arbor Avenue in Vineland was designated by the state in 2004 as a safety corridor. Fines for a variety of motor vehicle offenses in state-designated safety zones are doubled.
State transportation officials were unavailable for comment.
Contact Thomas Barlas: