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Nagging Mahwah Questions: One-Way Underpass Colors?

The sides of the one-way underpass at W. Airmount Ave. are painted different colors. A Mahwah Patch reader wrote to us to find out why.

You probably pass underneath it regularly. But, one Mahwah resident took a bit longer looking at one of the township's interesting pieces of infrastructe, and decided it needed a closer look.

Dave Falato recently wrote to Patch asking his Nagging Mahwah Question:

"I'm currently a resident of Mahwah, but I grew up in Ramsey. The other day I asked my wife (who is from Mahwah) if she knew why the one-lane bridge on W. Airmount had black and white paint on the one side, and red and white on the other. She had no idea, nor did she notice they were painted different. Do you know why?"

Patch set out to find the answer. Though township officials said they weren't sure about the history of the paint job on the one-way underpass, several trustees at the Mahwah Museum landed on an answer.

"From what I have been told, one side is painted red and the other black as an attempt to control traffic through the overpass," Museum trustee Tom O'Brien said. "The vehicles on the red side are supposed to stop and wait for cars to pass from the black side. The black side has the right of way."  

Trustee Bob Adler added, "the reason that the Franklin Turnpike side was chosen to be Black and White is because of the downward slope of the road. Vehicles traveling downhill have the right of way in case of brake failure."

The history of the underpass, the two said, is unique. 

"This underpass is the only one along the line that was not widened for traffic," O'Brien said. "It posible that this street "Culvert Ave." (before the West Airmount name was given to it) was considered a minor thoroughfare and wasn't going to carry much traffic." Though, O'Brien said he is not positive of the reasoning it remained a one-way.

Do you have a Nagging Mahwah Question? Something you see all the time in town, and have always wondered about? Submit them to jessica.mazzola@patch.com, and we will do our best to find the answer!

LKR February 19, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Now that it has been explained maybe people will respect the right of way. I hope the NY drivers who rudely "play chicken" through this underpass will stop and yield to downhill westerly traffic and no longer accelerate to beat us through the underpass.
Leaking Ink February 19, 2013 at 02:07 PM
Approximately 20 years ago, when I was teaching my then teenager how to drive, I called the NJ State Department of Transportation to ask this very question. They said that those signs were simply object markers for the bridge. They told me the different colors on either side were of no particular significance.
Mahwah Resident February 19, 2013 at 09:35 PM
I would go with the trustees at the Mahwah museum they have alot of knowledge about Mahwah. Object markers?????
Mike Kupchik February 20, 2013 at 12:43 AM
Bless Jessica's Patch info, as a resident since 1973, finally "got the word" on that overpass rule, and will now drive to suit. How old does she need to run for Mayor?
Leaking Ink February 20, 2013 at 02:05 PM
That's the NJ State Department of Transportation for you. That's exactly what they told me. I believe Tom O'Brien and Bob Adler also. Their explanations certainly make sense to me. Perhaps they should share their information with the NJ State Department of Transportation.

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