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Township Commitee Approves Contested Snowden Pathway

Matthew Hersh

A $100,000 stretch of proposed pathway for Snowden Lane was approved by Township Committee Monday night, apparently bringing an end to opposition that had caused six months of headache for legislators and residents alike.

Once a standard sidewalk proposal, the 1,300-foot pathway will line the western side of Snowden Lane between Franklin and Hamilton avenues. The Township hopes to put out a bid to a contractor within the month with construction expected to get underway by May, according to Township Engineer Robert Kiser.

When residents living along that portion of Snowden Lane received notice last Labor Day that their street had been identified by the Township as an area in need of a sidewalk, they balked at the proposal, claiming that a sidewalk would not only take away from the "bucolic" character of the street, but would possibly give the road the appearance of a wider thoroughfare, thus causing drivers to speed up.

Residents also called on the Township to employ various methods of traffic calming other than law enforcement, including islands and speed humps. It has long been municipal policy, however, to avoid using speed humps on the 100 miles of Township roadway because of the damage they can do to plows and ambulances travelling at high speeds.

Both the Township Police Department and the Princeton Regional Schools endorsed the pathway proposal. While the Princeton Community Master Plan does not specifically address placing pathways on Snowden Lane, it does express the need to establish walkways that create pedestrian links to schools, and shopping and recreational areas. This particular neighborhood lies within the Littlebrook Elementary School district, and is near the Princeton Shopping Center, and Barbara Smoyer Park.

Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller and Committeeman Bill Hearon worked with residents toward what appeared to be a reluctant compromise on both sides. What will result from those discussions will be a blacktop path that "meanders" along the curb and shifts away from the road to avoid tree removal, Mr. Kiser said. According to plans, the path appears to be tailored for each of the 16 homes on the affected properties.

Despite months of resident opposition to the pathway plans, Monday night's 4-0 vote – Committeeman Bill Enslin was absent – was surprisingly quiet. Some were present, but the only resident to speak out against the Township was not even necessarily an opponent of the sidewalks. Tom Mavis, who lives on the eastern, and thus unaffected, side of Snowden Lane, criticized the Township for its policy against speed humps and worried that Snowden Lane has become too much of a bypass road to sustain its "minor collector" status, as indicated in the master plan. "It's a pass-through street and is in contradiction with what the definition is for a minor collector," he said.

But Mr. Kiser, citing a police traffic survey, said the average of 2,500 cars that drive daily along Snowden Lane makes the road suitable for its minor collector status.

Mayor Phyllis Marchand said that while the Township has control over design and traffic enforcement, it cannot control who uses the road.

"We cannot say 'this is a minor collector, use Harrison Street [instead].'" The pathway is only one component of a $1 million Snowden Lane reconstruction project, slated to get underway in the spring.

Other Walkways

Despite the amplified attention given to the Snowden lane walkway proposal in recent months, it is only one of several areas identified by the Township in need of pedestrian accessibility. Committee voted unanimously in favor of installing sidewalks on: the southern and western side of Carnahan Place and the corner of Guyot and Henry avenues for $18,400; Grover Avenue between Franklin Avenue and a point just north of Clearview Avenue for $42,000; and both sides of Clearview Avenue between Grover Avenue and Harrison Street North for $70,000. All sidewalk costs are assessed 50 percent to the property owners.

The Township also unanimously approved an ordinance that allows for the installation of the municipality's standard "Belgian-block" curbing on both sides of Dorann Avenue for $26,000 with 100 percent of the cost assessed to the property owners.

Tee-Ar Place

Finally, Committee introduced an ordinance that would install sidewalks along the eastern side of Tee-Ar Place between Clearview and Franklin avenues for $36,800 with half the cost assessed to the property owners. Tee-Ar Place is an interesting example of community planning, where the residents, once faced with the prospect of having sidewalks installed on their street, saw that as an opportunity to make other improvements, including improved lighting. Township is expected to hold a public hearing and vote on that ordinance on April 4 at 7 p.m.


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