DELRAN - Burlington County's portion of Route 130, which has been named one of the state's deadliest highways, will get extra patrols under a coordinated crackdown on unsafe drivers and pedestrians.
State Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced the launch of "Operation 130 Safe Passage" at a news conference with other officials who gathered in a parking lot off the busy six-lane highway in Delran. He said the initiative is designed to "avoid future tragedies" on the dangerous 23-mile stretch of the road, which travels north and south past numerous strip shopping centers.
Thirteen pedestrians were killed on the road, and 40 others were struck, between 2007 and 2011, according to Chiesa.
Six more pedestrians were killed since 2011, including a 20-year-old woman struck two months ago in Delran as she walked to work at a supermarket.
No other state highway in New Jersey had more pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2011, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit that compiles official traffic data for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
The safe-passage initiative is funded by a $225,000 Highway Traffic Safety grant for the overtime wages of police and county sheriff's officers who patrol the road.
Lawmakers at the conference said they are doing their part by introducing bipartisan bills to harshen penalties for violations, improve crosswalks, and train more school crossing guards.
County Sheriff Jean Stanfield, who will oversee the stepped-up law enforcement, said officers will target motorists who speed, who fail to slow for pedestrians, who drive aggressively, and who use cellphones. Pedestrians who fail to use crosswalks will also be ticketed, she said.
During a recent one-hour survey of motorists on the highway, she said that 166 were observed speeding, while 58 were illegally using a cellphone.
"We know this grant will help change this behavior," Stanfield said, noting that the initiative will span 18 months.
Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, said 35 percent of the fatalities on this road are pedestrians - twice the national average. That, he said, is "just way too high." He said the 12 towns that are participating in the initiative will enter into shared-service agreements so police will not be restricted by borders in their enforcement efforts.
He said that the extra patrols will be conducted during peak travel times and that this will create a consistent police presence that "changes motoring behavior." Those who fail to stop for pedestrians face a $200 fine, he said.
State Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Herb Conaway, both Democrats from Burlington County, introduced legislation this month that would stiffen fines for traffic violations leading to pedestrian injuries and deaths and designate a percentage of the fines for safety programs.
"As a young kid who grew up on Route 130 in Willingboro, this is very personal for me," Singleton said Monday. "We've seen too may deaths on this roadway."