The Pride in Eatontown Committee is looking to improve the aesthetics and traffic flow of downtown Eatontown and also help preserve the history of the area.
The committee is looking to secure a transportation enhancement grant that would fund the project and is looking to get support from local groups to assist in the process
Pride In Eatontown members Judy Bretzger and Barbara Olsavsky presented their plans during an Eatontown Economic Advisory Committee meeting on Aug. 7.
Bretzger said the scope of the project includes the Route 35 corridor, West Street, the plaza between Broad Street and Lewis Street and the Main Street bridge over the Wampum Pond spillway.
"We are looking to improve landscaping, scenic beauty, preserve and showcase the railway corridor and emphasize our existing historic attractions," Bretzger said. "It would beautify the transportation throughfare, local business parking areas and would help reduce Route 35 South congestion."
Bretzger said the committee wants to incorporate a trolley theme into the project to pay homage to the Monmouth Electric Company's trolley that used to take travelers from Red Bank through Eatontown and into Long Branch. The trolley was in operation form 1898 to 1923 and its route was replaced by buses.
Olsavsky said one way to incorporate the trolley theme is to create a trolley-themed walkway along the sidewalks in the West Street lot with historic lighting, signage and landscaping.
"We also hope to continue the unification of the trolley them into the Lewis Street and West Stree parking area," Olsavsky said.
Another possibility is to move the Route 35 bus stop onto Lewis Street or to create a cutaway on Route 35 sou the bus could pull over instead of stopping traffic as it drops off and picks up riders.
Bretzger said a "trolley-themed bus shelter" could also be built at that bus stop.
Another major area of the project would be to emphasize the abandoned railway corridor near West Street and give it a historic distinction, according to Bretzger.
Olsavsky said she would also like to establish the original location of the Eatontown Lockup, which was located along the railway corridor. She said she hoped to mark the location with a free-standing door in the style of the original jail door.
The lockup was the site where, On March 5, 1886, a riotous crowd gathered and lynched Samuel “Mingo Jack” Johnson. Mingo Jack was an African American and former slave, was locked up in the building, and was accused of raping Angeline Herbert, a white woman, earlier in the day.
Olsavsky said the area could incorporate historic material about Mingo Jack.
"It's history and we need to bring it to everyone's attention in a nice, elegant way," Olsavsky said.
Bretzger said she also hopes to replace the guard rail on Main Street bridge over the Wampum Pond spillway with "something more attractive."
Councilman Dennis Connelly was in attendance at Tuesday's meeting and said he supports the project.
"I love the historic value and I think the theme could spark some interest in the project," Councilman Connelly said. "We want people to look to their right or left when driving through the downtown area."
Mayor Gerald Tarantolo said the area of the project, which lies in the borough's redevelopment zone, is in need of help.
"I think you are on to something that can be developed into an overall plan," Mayor Tarantolo said.
The mayor said the borough also has $100,000 earmarked for a traffic light project that would synchronize all the lights from the Eatontown-Red Bank border to the newly-completed Route 35/36 intersection. The main area of the proposed project lies in the middle of that area, and the synchronization would help improve the traffic flow on Route 35 through Eatontown.
Bretzger said she hopes to speak to more borough groups before the Pride in Eatontown Committee applies for the grant next year.