Legislation To Reduce Speed Limit On Route 130 In Burlington City Advances

The bill is named in honor of Antwan Timbers Jr., a 17-year-old Burlington City student who was struck and killed by a vehicle in May 2016 while walking home along Route 130.

TRENTON — Legislation to reduce the speed limit on a dangerous stretch of Route 130 in Burlington City has cleared another hurdle.

The New Jersey Senate voted 34-1 last week to approve legislation known as “Antwan’s Law” that aims to reduce the speed limit on the city’s stretch of the state highway, near Burlington City High School and the Wilbur Watts Intermediate School, to 25 mph at all times rather than just before and after school hours.

Currently the speed limit in that area is reduced from 40 mph to 25 mph between 7 and 9 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m.

The bill also would triple the fines for speeding in that school zone.

The bill is named in honor of Antwan Timbers Jr., a 17-year-old Burlington City student who was struck and killed by a vehicle in May 2016 while walking home along Route 130.

Timbers’ death was one of a state-high 50 traffic fatalities in Burlington County that year, and inspired a campaign by many of his classmates to lobby for safety improvements on Route 130, which has repeatedly been named the state’s most dangerous road for pedestrians due to its high death toll.

State Sen. Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, was the prime sponsor of the bill in the Assembly when it was first introduced during the last legislative session and he sponsored it in the Senate this year after he was elected to the district’s open Senate seat. His predecessor, Republican Diane Allen had also championed the legislation.

“Antwan’s heartbreaking death was a painful incident that underscores what the data on Route 130 has shown for years — that this is one of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in our state,” said Singleton after the vote. “Whether they’re going to school or to get a slice of pizza with friends, our kids are in danger every time they cross this highway. Thanks to the activism of the Burlington City High School students and the advocacy of my predecessor, Senator Diane Allen, Antwan’s Law is one step closer to becoming an actuality. It will not only be impactful in this community, but in other areas across the state where children face a similar hazard near their schools.”

The legislation has undergone some changes from last session when it was written to allow towns and county to unilaterally reduce the speed limit on state highways in close proximity to schools. The measure drew vocal opposition from Republican Declan O’Scanlon, R-13th of Little Silver, who spoke against the measure in a committee hearing and to the press, arguing that it would allow towns to arbitrarily reduce speed limits in areas where it may not be appropriate.

“These will instantly become speed traps and dramatically become more dangerous,” O’Scanlon, who was then serving as a member of the state Assembly, said last May during an Assembly Transportation Committee hearing on the measure. “We as legislators shouldn’t be setting speed limits.”

Like Singleton, O’Scanlon was elected to his district’s Senate seat last fall. And he was the lone vote in opposition to the bill last Thursday when the Senate approved it.

Singleton said the bill was originally written last session to reduce the speed limit on Route 130 but was merged with another similar bill to broaden its scope. He said this session, he opted to push just the Route 130 reduction.

He said the decision had nothing to do with O’Scanlon’s opposition and that he was pleased by the bipartisan support it received during the Senate vote.

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-7th of Mount Laurel, who filled the Assembly seat Singleton vacated, has sponsored identical legislation that is still pending before the Assembly Transportation Committee.

In order to become law, both chambers of the Legislature must approve the same bill and the governor must also sign it.

In addition to the legislation, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has made some improvements to signage and traffic signals along Route 130 in recent years in order to try to improve pedestrian safety, as well as funded increased enforcement efforts by the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department and local police departments on the highway.

Last year, the DOT reduced the travel lanes on Route 130 between East Federal and Wood streets in Burlington City to lower speeds and better protect pedestrians.

The efforts have had mixed result. While officials have said safety has improved some, pedestrian deaths have still occurred, including one this month when a 25-year-old Westampton man was struck and killed while crossing against a red light in Edgewater Park.

Original Article