BURLINGTON CITY — The move to permanently lower the speed limit to 25 mph along a dangerous stretch of Route 130, near a number of schools, was meant to improve pedestrian safety. But there are fears the newly-enacted state law may be doing more harm than good.

City police claim the complications they anticipated before the law was signed in January are already being realized, just a couple months after the law was enacted.

Impatient drivers are cutting off other drivers who are following the law, or they're veering off the state highway to "speed through the neighborhoods," according to Police Chief John Fine.

"We are seeing an increase in motor vehicle crashes on our side arteries," Fine told New Jersey 101.5.

The vast majority have been minor accidents, but injuries have occurred, he said.

The department has devoted additional resources to crack down on motorist violations. In the last three weeks alone, 97 summonses were handed out on one side artery, Fine said. The law also tripled the fines for speeding.

Fine said the roadway was reduced to two lanes not too long ago. It's his view Route 130 in the city can not handle both the road diet and the speed limit change.

"Whenever you put 25 mph on a road that's having construction vehicles, commercial vehicles, private vehicles — it's going to put a strain on any agency," Fine said.

Fine said it would be premature to declare that the uptick in crashes is linked to the new law, but it has definitely resulted in significant traffic pattern changes. Fine said the area could still benefit from additional signage regarding the speed-limit reduction.

The state Department of Transportation said it is too early to evaluate the effects of the new speed limit, and that it has not been made aware of any changes in traffic congestion.

"Lower speeds help reduce crashes, as well as lessen the severity of crashes that do occur," said DOT spokesman Steve Schapiro. "The Department is optimistic the change in speed limit will improve safety on this stretch of Route 130."

Antwan's law, named after a 17-year-old who was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver in 2016 while walking along Route 130 after midnight, permanently reduces the speed limit to 25 mph near Burlington City High School and Wilbur Watts Intermediate School. In the past, the speed limit in those areas was reduced when children are visibly present, and was otherwise 40 mph.

State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, the only member of the Senate to vote against the bill in April 2018, said if he has to introduce legislation to reverse the law, he'll do so. Fine's comments, he said, suggest the law is a "disaster" as predicted.

O'Scanlon said it's not a legislator's job to pander to people, no matter what tragedy inspires their urge to make a change.

"It's our job to pay attention to data, pay attention to reality," O'Scanlon said.

Speaking to New Jersey 101.5 several months ago, O'Scanlon said not one traffic engineer would believe this move is a good idea. Speed limits are set using scientific data, and not on a whim, he said.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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