Gird Your Loins for the Washington Street Project

by Jeffrey Somers
Gird Your Loins for the Washington Street Project

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Gird Your Loins for the Washington Street Project

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Gird Your Loins for the Washington Street Project
wash1 It looks so much wider from up here.
We’re living in the 21st century, and the cliché complaint involves a lack of jetpacks or flying cars. Here in Hoboken we don’t complain about those things, because jetpacks would just make this year’s LepreCon into a nightmare of biblical proportions for most citizens, and flying cars would somehow magically make traffic worse just when you don’t think it could be any worse. If you need something to worry about in Hoboken in 2017, worry about The Washington Street Project, which will snarl traffic, tear up sidewalks, and bring all sorts of chaos into town. The good news, though, is that it’ll all be worth it—because when it’s done, Hoboken will be a better, smarter place to live.

The Main Artery

wash3Washington Street is the main drag of our little town. According to the city, it sees 9,000 cars, 14,000 bus riders, and 18,000 pedestrians on average every day. The American Planning Association has recognized Washington Street as a “Great Street”, citing its planning, its historical value, and its vibrancy. And residents don’t argue: Every single day you can find Hobokenites strolling, shopping, and socializing along the wide central street. Of course, all that wear and tear takes a toll, and it’s been a long time since Washington Street has seen any love. More ominously for a town that seems to have a water main break every third day, the infrastructure under the street hasn’t been upgraded in a long time either. The $17 million Washington Street Project, which will be funded in part from the new parking rules that require non-permit vehicles to pay for parking more or less through the city, and partly from Federal grant monies, is designed to be nothing less than a complete overhaul of the street, including
  • The installation of curb extensions, ADA ramps, high visibility crosswalks, and pedestrian countdown timers at the corners.
  • New bus shelters.
  • Protected Class II unprotected bicycle lanes and bike parking which will hopefully keep bicyclists off the sidewalks.
  • Improved safety with better lighting and street furniture.
  • Redesigned parking slots to reduce double-parking and corner-parking.
wash6 The inclusion of the pigeon is admirable verisimilitude.
It’s safe to say we’re going to have some frustrating times ahead, but all of these things are worth doing and will have real benefits.

And the Rains Came

Even more important than the street furniture and bike lanes is what’s going to happen under the pavement: New water mains. Let’s say that again: New water mains. It seems like every day we wake up to a reminder of the terrible contract the city signed with United Water which leaves much of the infrastructure maintenance and repair costs to the city, and main breaks are as common as rainy days here. The words “new water mains” have never sounded sweeter. Not just that, but other flood-resistant features, such as rain garden curb extensions designed to lessen flooding are being installed. And while they have the street torn open, they’ll be installing a new fiber-optic spine and electrical conduit to bring the city’s Internet and electrical system into the modern age.

Take the Good, Take the Bad

While this will all be well worth it when the project is completed (contractually specified as roughly June 2018), in the mean time not only will Washington Street be a lively bit of chaos, but parking is going to be worse for non-residents as well. While in the past you could park for up to four hours in most non-resident zones, the city is installing new parking meters all over the city. If you don’t have a resident sticker or a visitor permit, you can still park for up to four hours, but you’ll have to pay. On the one hand, as a resident this might mean more parking spaces available, and everyone in Hoboken hums hallelujah to that. On the other hand, it also makes it harder for people to come into our town and spend money. On the other other hand, this new revenue is paying for our shiny new Washington Street. Which, in the end, is pretty exciting to look forward to. If Washington Street is the lifeline of our city, then putting some effort and money into modernizing and improving it is a great idea. Let’s just hope it stays on schedule, on budget—and looks pretty doing it.

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