Traffic changes this week

Two-way traffic is scheduled to begin downtown, on Main and Irving streets, this week. In addition to those one-way streets becoming two-way, several one-way side streets (East Cherry and Coach) will reverse direction while another that’s currently two-way (Poplar) will become one-way toward Irving; so all three will flow toward Irving.

Striping is scheduled to be done Monday evening and signs will be uncovered for Tuesday morning when the change is officially expected to occur. If there’s an issue, it could be pushed back a day, said Police Chief John Rodger, but the goal is to have it completed before the holiday weekend.

Cones will run the length of Irving and Main so motorists will have to stay in one lane, reinforcing the pattern change, according to Rodger, and Traffic will have a heavy presence downtown during the transition. The cones will be removed in phases, he added, to continually reinforce the patterns for a period of time.

When merchants were surveyed last year about changing traffic patterns downtown, most were in favor.

East Milton musings

East Milton Avenue looks like it’s been paved and ready for striping. Has anyone else noticed what appear to be video cameras atop the new traffic signals (left) at Main and Fulton streets, along East Milton?

6/27 UPDATE: Nope, they’re not video cameras but sensors to detect traffic patterns and adjust the timing of lights accordingly. Thanks to all who emailed/commented to clarify.

Seems like that’s business as usual these days, according to this recent MSNBC report:

“Even after a damning report by the head of London’s extensive surveillance network and with little evidence that the systems work — police in many cities are trying to add thousands more cameras to their networks.

“Officials in many cities are eager to take advantage of money from state and federal security agencies to install the cameras on street corners and intersections.”

Speaking of East Milton Avenue, is it just me or has it become a virtual wind tunnel on that side of the hotel? I noticed it back in May during Hot Rods & Harleys, and I can’t recall it ever being that windy before the 16-story Carriage City Plaza was erected. Imagine if the “second tower” envisioned across the street ever materializes…

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The coffee shop formerly known as Moca Motion Cafe looks like it’s open for business, although the Moca Motion Cafe signs are still there, in addition to a new Express Cafe sign in the window. Either way, the interior looks awfully similar to what I remember when the previous tenant was there.

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The next reader to subscribe by email to Rahway Rising will be No. 100. That might sound like I’m about to give something away at least something of monetary value — what, my gratitude isn’t enough for you anymore?!? — but I’m not. It’s just a nice round number. It’s been an exciting week, as we hit a new high for daily visits on Tuesday (186) and then again on Wednesday (201).

Thanks to everyone for reading, subscribing, supplying tips of all kinds, and commenting, etc. Keep it all coming, especially suggestions for a new poll question (though it sounds like I’m the only one clamoring for that to return…).

Parking deck permits going up 30 percent

A 30-percent increase in the monthly cost of parking permits for the Lewis Street garage has sparked a petition drive.

Tina Morgan and others who use the deck are collecting signatures for a petition they plan to present to the Parking Authority. She will be collecting signatures outside the deck on Thursday from 6 to 7:15 p.m., Friday morning, and again from 3 to 5 p.m. that day.

Raising rates had been mentioned as a possibility earlier in the year, but the Parking Authority Board of Commissioners at its June meeting approved increasing the monthly rate for the new parking deck by $20 — from $65 to $85.

Permits for surface lots are going up by $10, roughly 20 percent, from $50 to $60 or $55 to $60. The only fees that won’t see increases are a lot leased from St. Mary’s Church and permits in Lot B (behind The Waiting Room), which are downtown residents and merchants, said Parking Authority Executive Director Don Andersen.

Commissioners, who meet the first Wednesday of the month, discussed fee increases at their May meeting, according to minutes. At least one commissioner suggested Rahway’s rates are “very low” compared to other towns while another said the increases “would not be as bad as originally proposed.” The garage began 24-hour operations June 3 in anticipation of the opening of Carriage City Plaza. Condo residents were expected to begin moving in this month.

Morgan, who uses the deck daily before taking a train to her job in Newark, said the only other neighboring parking deck with comparable rates to Rahway’s $85 is in Elizabeth at $90. She suggested the fee hike be staggered — increasing by $10 this August, and another $10 next August — to make it “more digestible.”

Morgan offered an excerpt of the letter she plans to present to Parking Authority commissioners at their next meeting, Wednesday, July 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the parking deck, 67 Lewis St.:

“We are at the mercy of the Parking Authority since the more reasonably priced surrounding lots have all been removed and no longer available to us. We hope that because the deck is now, for the most part, the ‘only game in town,’ that you would not treat your loyal patrons so cavalierly. We understand $3 million were contributed to the City of Rahway by NJ Transit to allow for the deck to be built. It would seem that NJ Transit’s interest in providing such a grant would be to encourage the public to take mass transit as opposed to overburdening our already heavily congested thoroughfares. We don’t think that the grant was given to eventually price-out the average person who takes the train from Rahway and raise the parking fee to become almost as high as the train fare. This does not seem fair, good business or in the spirit of community, which the Parking Authority heralds on the Web site.”

The $11-million Lewis Street deck opened in December 2004. Of the 524 spaces, 209 are set aside for condo owners at SkyView. Through Tuesday night, Morgan reported 127 signatures on the petition.

Three stars for Luciano’s

Luciano’s received three stars in a review featured in Friday’s Star-Ledger, and had a few interesting things to say about Rahway as well: “If you haven’t found yourself in Rahway recently, you’ll be surprised by the ever-increasing reasons to go. This is a city on a quest to become a vibrant community, full of urban artists and commuters, with all the energy that entails. It stands to reason, then, that the restaurant scene would enjoy an invigorating renaissance as well.”

Owner Michael Merlis is also quoted: “Merlis expects even more people to re-discover the town and sit at one of the tables that not so recently would have been in a vacant lot. ‘They can’t believe they’re in Rahway.'” Hmm, where have I heard that before?

New eatery targets July opening

The Original Nile Restaurant will replace the former Back Porch Bar and Grille, with plans to open by the start of next month. Hassana Kaba, an area Realtor and former River Place resident, owns the restaurant with her husband and is hoping to have all inspections, permits, etc., completed by July 1.

Kaba, whose parents owned The Nile Restaurant in Elizabeth many years ago, described the fare as southern-style “comfort food,” soul food and general American cuisine with random specials. She’s hoping to have the outdoor seating on the deck available for the grand opening, though the restaurant won’t being serving alcohol (the previous tenant still holds the liquor license, from what I understand).

[Thanks to reader “nomad” for the photo above]

Two-way traffic: July 1

The two-way traffic patterns slated for Irving and Main streets that been talked about for months finally are set to take place July 1 — if the electronic signs on Irving Street are to be believed. In addition to bringing two-way traffic to Irving and Main, three streets will become one-way toward Irving Street: East Cherry, Coach and Poplar.

The Fulton-Irving Street realignment originally had been ahead of schedule for April, according to city officials earlier this year, and two-way traffic had been planned by May 15. The traffic light was one of the conditions for the new hotel at Irving Street and East Milton Avenue.

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Another center for performing arts, the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, is looking for a government bailout. Millburn is considering a $9.1-million purchase/lease-back of the playhouse and its four-acre property. Last year, as part of the $6.2-million renovation and expansion of the Union County Arts Center, Union County purchased the 80-year-old Irving Street facility for $1.3 million.

According to that report, subscriptions for the Paper Mill last year were 18,000, almost twice as many as the 9,700 at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center, and more than McCarter, George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison combined.

Station shop expected to open this month

Welcome to Coffee Shop Awareness Month at Rahway Rising. After last week’s sharp back-and-forth among readers about the new coffee shop in the SkyView development, and the news about a coffeehouse in the Park Square project, NJ Transit expects the former Moca Motion Cafe to be open by the end of June.

The proprietor is in the process of obtaining inspection approvals, according to a spokesman for NJ Transit, and if all goes well, the shop is expected to open by the end of this month. The sign in the window (photo at right) says Express Cafe, but the spokesman indicated it would be called Metro News and Cafe. Let the debates ensue!

It was referenced in last week’s raging Cuppy’s debate, so in case you missed the marigolds spelling out Rahway, here they are. They’re located below the NJ Transit stairs off the northbound platform on Irving Street, near East Cherry (across the street from David Drake).

That’s three straight posts about coffee downtown. I’ll be sure to mix it up a bit more later this week…as long as everyone agrees to cut back on the caffeine…