Preliminary findings from a three-month-long, state-funded study looking to improve declining traffic conditions on the Route 206 corridor from Nassau Street to Cherry Valley Road were subjected to yet another public hearing last week, aimed to flesh out any lingering concerns of residents.
Slowing down car and truck traffic on the roadway was among the study's chief concerns at a third public hearing before a capacity crowd at Township Hall; the issue was also discussed by several smaller focus groups. Particular attention was given to the idea of installing traffic-calming roundabouts at jammed intersections like those along 206 at Ewing Street or at Nassau Street near Borough Hall.
While the $100,000 New Jersey Department of Transportation-sponsored study, conducted by the Orlando-based Glatting-Jackson along with the Philadelphia-based planning consultant Urban Engineers, was largely well received, and generally understood to be essentially conceptual, members of the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad were concerned that some of the proposed traffic-calming measures might impede emergency vehicles, which rely on quick access through the path of least resistance.
In the meantime, there were several other substantive suggestions put forth by Glatting-Jackson planner Ian Lockwood, but those ultimately focused around the roundabout solution. They included: pedestrian islands or "refuges" at tricky intersections like the aforementioned Nassau Street crossing; tree plantings closer to the roadway that would give the appearance of a narrower road, thus slowing traffic; and implementing a municipal policy that would encourage any new development to face the roadway, with "back-in" angle parking, resulting in a comparable traffic-calming effect.
Other locations suggested for roundabouts similar to the one Princeton University installed at its parking hub off Faculty Road were at the University Place/Bank Street/Nassau Street intersection, as well as the triangular configuration forming the junction of Red Hill Road and Route 206. Mr. Lockwood emphasized that all the study's suggestions would be subjected to further planning processes before they were taken any further.
Mark Freda, who, along with Squad Chief Greg Paulson, was in attendance on behalf of the Squad, worried that before the final Route 206 study report is completed, there needed to be something "on the record" that indicates the emergency services in town desire more input as the plans approached implementation. He expressed particular concern as to whether emergency vehicles would be able to maneuver the pedestrian "refuges," which, according to some plans, stretch up to 90 feet. He worried that cars approaching the roundabouts would not be able to yield to an ambulance or fire truck for a lack of space.
"If you approach that at rush hour, and traffic is backed up that full 90 feet or longer, how are the cars going to go to get out of our way?" Mr. Freda added that he would like to see some shoulder or drive that would allow emergency vehicles to get around the traffic.
"Our concern is that people will see the conceptual plan and say 'okay, that's it, it's done.' But we needed to stand up and say that we agreed with the overall effort, that traffic's going to be calm, but just don't want a situation where we can't get to somebody when we need to get to them."
Representatives of the grassroots community group that helped initiate the state grant to fund the study, "Citizens for a Safer Route 206," said that the Rescue Squad was one of several "stakeholders" who have been, and will continue to be contacted individually by the engineers involved in the study.
In the meantime, the next step will be to attain local endorsements of the plan, with the Regional Planning Board coordinating that process, said Lee Solow, planning director for the Planning Board. Once the final report is received, he said, it will be posted on the Princeton Township Web site, with the plan going through a review process with the local entities, including the Princeton Environmental Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission.
Ultimately, any goals stemming from the study would have to be adopted and added to the Princeton Community Master Plan.
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