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Vol. LXI, No. 29
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
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Impact of New Connector Road Discussed at Township Meeting

Stuart Mitchner

Drivers who take the Hillside Avenue shortcut between 206 and Cherry Valley Road will soon feel the impact of limited access to the street thanks to the recent completion of the connector road between Route 206 and Cherry Valley Road.

Public concerns about anticipated reduced access and increased congestion were expressed at Monday night's Township Committee meeting, which was otherwise relatively uneventful. Completion time extensions were granted for other projects, as were liquor license transfers; resolutions were approved, including one extending the tax deadline for third quarter taxes. All five ordinances up for review passed unanimously, including the one in question "regulating motor vehicle turning movement on Hillside Avenue and Cherry Valley Road." Township Engineer Robert Kiser had good news about the imminent completion of work on Mountain Avenue, not to mention the paving of Overbrook Drive, Clover Lane, and Abernathy Drive, and illuminated crosswalks on Harrison Street (to be funded by the county) and Alexander Street (to be funded by the University).

The first bond ordinance discussed authorized the repair and replacement of sidewalks along both sides of Witherspoon Street from the Princeton Borough Line to Valley Road. Although the ordinance encountered no resistance, one Valley Road resident speculated that the estimated sum of $9,725 would not be enough to do the job. When committee member Lance Liverman had to recuse himself due to his owning property on Witherspoon, Vicky Bergman joined the meeting by phone from Maine to provide a quorum as well as an account of the local weather.

The Hillside Issue

The just completed connector road, which is in the vicinity of 842 State Road, complements the connector roadway constructed last year in Montgomery Township from Princeton Avenue to Route 206 behind the Sunoco gas station. The purpose of the two connector roads is to remove left turn movements from northbound and southbound Route 206 to Cherry Valley Road and Princeton Avenue, respectively, at the Cherry Valley Road/Princeton Avenue/Route 206 intersection. Route 206 southbound traffic now accesses Princeton Avenue via the Princeton connector road while Route 206 northbound traffic accesses Cherry Valley Road by way of the Montgomery connector road.

The new connector road was constructed on Township right of way on property recently acquired from PNC Bank on the northern edge of their parking lot. The driveway serving 842 State Road on the Route 206 frontage was also relocated approximately 75 feet south.

Residents of Hillside Avenue would seem to be the most obvious beneficiaries of the new plan. No longer will cars or trucks heading north on 206 turn left and go speeding down Hillside to connect with Cherry Valley Road. The same holds for drivers on Cherry Valley looking for the Hillside short cut to a right or left turn onto 206. The first mention of a potential problem at Monday's meeting came from a resident of Jonathan Dayton Court, who pointed out that access to Griggs Farm would be made more difficult as a result of the proposed changes; he also predicted an increase in rush hour congestion due to the consequent backing up of traffic on 206. These concerns were elaborated on by the owner of a nearby business who has been using the Hillside "connector road" since 1980. He came armed with an imposing assortment of statistics about what he described as the "environmental and economic costs" the change would incur. He also warned of a resulting delay in response time for emergency vehicles that would be caused by "cutting off the end of Hillside Avenue." Like the Griggs Farm resident, he suggested that the problems were not worth "the convenience of giving the 13 homes on Hillside a quasi-private street."

Mayor Phyllis Marchand responded by promising that the situation would be closely monitored and referring to Mr. Kiser's suggestion that the traffic flow could be improved by "tweaking" the signal at the Cherry Valley Road/Princeton Avenue/Route 206 intersection to "allow more green time." Mr. Kiser aso claimed that as yet no serious back-ups had been observed and suggested that the new traffic patterns would actually reduce accidents.

"This is the first step," said Township Committee Member Chad Goerner, "and it's a step that involves constant monitoring." Mr. Goerner also anticipated that the situation would be improved by the Vision Plan for a "gateway" solution on 206 north of the Ewing intersection as well as the other traffic-calming devices planned between Jefferson Road and Cherry Valley Road on 206.

Other bond ordinances that were passed authorized repair and replacement of sidewalks along Philip Drive, Hemlock Circle, and Woodside Lane; the providing for various capital improvements in the Township (appropriating the aggregate amount of $2,303,209). The last ordinance to be passed concerned violations of affordable housing rules and regulations.

"No Concern"

During the hearing to confirm the Littlebrook Road Pathway Assessment, a 93-year-old disabled resident whose property was affected complained of not being informed that the work was going to be done. She also stressed that "no concern" had been shown for the impact the unexpected disruption would have on someone of her age and condition. The raising of the phone lines on her street, she said, meant that she was unable to contact anyone for a two-week period. Mr. Kiser and Ms. Marchand expressed sympathy for her difficulties and concern about the "unreasonable situation" she had endured. And Mr. Kiser admitted that "our relation with the contractor wasn't the best."

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