With Traffic in Mind, DOT Commissioner Eyes Proposed UMCP Site

Matthew Hersh

Anticipating the potential traffic impact resulting from the relocation of the University Medical Center at Princeton to the FMC Corp. site in Plainsboro, the mayors of Princeton Borough and Township are slated to meet with New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri and other area officials Monday to discuss what effect a new hospital will have on the Penns Neck portion of Route 1, as well as on local traffic.

Organized by Asm. Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Borough), the meeting will take place this Monday and will also include Mayor Peter Cantu of Plainsboro, Mayor Shing-Fu Shieh of West Windsor, as well as representatives from Princeton University and Princeton HealthCare System, the hospital's parent entity.

Last year, the Princeton HeathCare System contracted to purchase a 160-acre site along Plainsboro Road and Route 1 in Plainsboro currently occupied by FMC. Hospital officials have said that a spring 2007 groundbreaking is possible. Most recent estimates schedule the new hospital's opening for 2010.

And while Princeton HeathCare System has undergone extraordinary scrutiny in regard to the development of its vacated Princeton lands, which include the 12-acre Witherspoon Street main campus and the nine-acre Merwick Care Center campus on Bayard Lane, little has been discussed publicly as to the consequences of developing the Plainsboro site. Until now.

"Mayor Mildred Trotman and Mayor Phyllis Marchand contacted me and they thought it was time to talk about transportation issues regarding the relocation," Mr. Gusciora said, adding that the primary concern from Princeton's end was how to handle emergency traffic leaving Princeton, especially during rush hour, when main arteries like Alexander Street, Washington Road, Harrison Street, and South Brunswick's Raymond Road suffer from severe bottleneck conditions as commuters head to Route 1.

"If there was some emergency at rush hour, especially for Princeton residents, there may be some difficulty getting out of town," Mr. Gusciora said.

Specifically, Mr. Gusciora addressed the need for a feasibility study that could explore creating a left turn lane at Harrison Street for cars attempting to go northbound on Route 1.

Also under consideration, though it is years off, is the planned Penns Neck Bypass, the $65 million DOT road realignment project that consists of an overhaul of the traffic light system along Penns Neck area and creates a Washington Road underpass at Route 1 and frontage roads on the northbound and southbound lanes of the highway that travel between Washington Road and Harrison Street.

"The Harrison Street intersection is already a failed' intersection in terms of traffic backup — so everyone would benefit from an improvement to that intersection, even before the hospital moves to Route 1," said Pam Hersh Princeton HealthCare System's vice president for Government and Community Affairs.

"This meeting is basically so everyone is on the same page," Mr. Gusciora said. In regard to the Penns Neck Bypass, he added that the hospital's relocation should be included in that vision.

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