Thirty-six year old Efrain Mateo-Morales was killed at the intersection of US 130 and North Park Drive in Pennsauken on Monday night. According to NJPEN.com, Police stated that he was approaching Route 130, when he hit the side of a vehicle in the northbound lane that was just starting to turn into the park. From the reports, it’s not clear as to whether Mr. Mateo-Morales was traveling with or against traffic or if the turning motorist had the right of way.
Regardless of the circumstances, this crash may have been less likely if NJDOT took into account the safety and comfort of bicyclists and pedestrians that need to travel across Route 130.
In 2011, plans for a regional trail network (now known as the Circuit Trails) was well underway. Camden County received a grant to complete a portion of the Cooper River Trail between North Park Drive and Kaighn Avenue. At about the same time, the New Jersey Department of Transportation was wrapping up final design for a 25 million dollar reconstruction of the Route 130 intersection. A public meeting was then held in April.
Matt Norris of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign brought forward issues to the project managers. Trail advocates proposed changes, including an additional crosswalk on the south side along with a pedestrian refuge and a bike box on the westbound side to allow bicyclists to position themselves in front of motorists. However, despite many discussions between NJDOT and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, only minor changes to the project were made.
With that project complete, making needed changes to the intersection will be difficult. The cost of a missed opportunity is great. A pedestrian bridge is an expensive piece of infrastructure that can cost up to $5 million to build. Without any intervention, Route 130 will continue to be a major barrier for the Cooper River Trail. And for those on bike and foot that need to make the crossing to earn a living, the penalty for inaction could be injury or death.
On behalf of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, our deepest sympathies goes out to the family of Efrain Mateo-Morales. We will continue to work with Camden County, DVRPC and NJDOT to find a safe and comfortable connection at this intersection.