Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 51
 
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
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DOT Denies Princeton Truck Relief

Matthew Hersh

Advocates pushing for fewer trucks along Route 206 and other major arteries in Princeton suffered a significant setback Monday as the state’s Department of Transportation denied a request to remove key Princeton roadways from a state designation that allows for the passage of large trucks.

The decision, which had been anticipated by local officials, was confirmed by DOT yesterday. The new rules include Route 27 and Route 206 on the New Jersey Access Network.

The move comes almost a year to the day after the state placed a rule proposal in the New Jersey Register that would allow double-trailer truck combinations and 102-inch-wide standard trucks to travel on state roads that fall into the National Network or New Jersey Access Network classification. The rules were posted following the 2005-2006 state-funded study looking to calm traffic along Route 206 in the Borough and Township between Cherry Valley Road and Nassau Street.

The Princetons, along with Lawrence-ville and Montgomery, acted to exempt the roads following a federal court decision that allowed for large trucks with neither an origin or destination in New Jersey to travel on “blue routes,” or roadways which appear on the DOT’s truck routing map as restricted for travel by large trucks.

DOT spokesperson Erin Phalon said that the request to exempt some of the Princeton area’s major throughways from blue route designation failed largely because the roads met the criteria to handle large truck traffic, including sufficient geometric measures; travel lane width of 11 feet or greater; state or interstate highways or county 500- or 600-series roads.

“The roads are adequate for handling truck traffic,” Ms. Phalon said.

DOT Commissioner Kris Kolluri is calling for the creation of a task force to reevaluate the blue route designations. That task force, however, would not be assembled until after the state’s January 22 publishing of the new regulations in the New Jersey Register.

Local officials, including elected representation from both Princetons, Montgomery, and Lawrence present at Monday’s meeting with Mr. Kolluri, argued that the pedestrian use is intensified in the Princeton region, but DOT maintained that similar challenges faced several other populous communities traversed by blue routes.

“Every New Jersey Access Road travels through communities where cars, large trucks, and pedestrians must share the roadway, and we encourage municipalities to use their enforcement tools to address cars and large trucks who are not observing crosswalk regulations,” Ms. Phalon said. She added that DOT would be willing to help finance an area along Route 206 where police could monitor trucks’ compliance with a four-ton weight limit.

Monday’s meeting with DOT was a “disappointing meeting for all the municipalities,” said Township Committeeman Chad Goerner, who has also worked with the community advocacy group, Residents for a Safer Route 206. “But it will be important for us to commit to some kind of representation on the task force,” he added.

A major component in the DOT’s denial of the road exemption request was a lack of alternative routes should large trucks be banned from Route 206 and Route 27, Ms. Phalon said. “If we were to prohibit trucks, there would be no other suitable route,” she said. The DOT did indicate that it would help realize the traffic-calming findings in the DOT-funded Route 206 Vision Plan, an offer Mr. Goerner said was akin to a “consolation prize.”

The Committeeman said he would look to the proposed task force to establish changes to blue route designation. “It’s important to respond to the specific reasons DOT stated in the denial of Route 206 and Route 27,” he said.

Ms. Phalon said that exemption requests for Washington Road and Mercer Road are still under review, but she asserted that trucks driving on those throughways are required to adhere to local weight limitations.

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