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Vol. LXIV, No. 50
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010
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As State Considers Lane Closures, Mayors Worry About Increased Traffic

Dilshanie Perera

A recent meeting of the Circulation Committee of the Princeton Regional Planning Board dealt in part with turning lane closures along Route One that have been proposed by the state.

Borough and Township Mayors Mildred Trotman and Bernie Miller reported on the mayors’ meeting with the State’s Department of Transportation Commissioner, which took place with representatives from Princeton University and the University Medical Center of Princeton, and other area mayors also in attendance.

While construction on widening the roadway at the intersection of Harrison Street and Route One is ongoing, the state is considering dedicating one lane at the intersection to right turns and going straight across the intersection to Sarnoff Laboratories, with the other a lane reserved solely to left turns, Mr. Miller said.

“We said that it was absolutely necessary to get that work completed before the hospital opens,” Mr. Miller added, relaying that the Commissioner had said that roadwork would resume in the spring.

The major source of concern for the mayors was the state’s proposal to prohibit left hand turns from Route One onto Washington Road and Harrison Street. The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rationale is that the measure would improve traffic flow along Route One.

Mr. Miller noted that the mayors asked the DOT to make the data they have available to all parties who would be affected by the change, whereas the DOT staff wanted to test the scenario on a trial basis. He cited a “strong difference of opinion between DOT staff and the mayors.”

The mayors suggested that the state proceed with the Route One Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to improve rush hour congestion. The Princeton Regional Planning Board passed a resolution last week advocating for the creation of such a system.

Ms. Trotman noted that the Commissioner expressed his approval of Princeton University’s Arts and Transit Neighborhood as it has been proposed.

Mr. Miller suggested that the left hand turn closures “would end up with unintended consequences,” namely, increased congestion in the municipalities immediately along that corridor. He expressed concern with “what is essentially a one-lane bridge on Alexander Road,” which was supposed to be a temporary bridge, but that has been around for 25 years. He also suggested that backups and bottlenecks would increase with the closure of other entrances into town.

“The county is going to be involved in future meetings,” Ms. Trotman noted.

Princeton University Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee pointed out an “interesting argument” on the part of the state, namely that “they do not trust their own data,” so they must see what people really do and the traffic choices they make when presented with the left turn prohibitions. Nonetheless, “All kinds of things need to happen before they even imagine testing,” he said.

During the meeting resident Sheldon Sturges suggested reversing the one way road along Eden Way as a means of alleviating the traffic on Harrison Street. Princeton University now owns the Eden property, and such a proposal may be up for consideration.

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