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Vol. LXI, No. 22
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
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Planners Show Concern Over Dinky Proposal

Matthew Hersh

Despite Princeton University claims that relocating New Jersey Transit's Princeton "Dinky" station 460 feet south would ease traffic flow through a proposed arts neighborhood around the intersection of University Place and Alexander Street, several members of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton this week have expressed concern with the proposal, while conceding that the plan was too provisional to merit an outright public challenge.

The University, which owns the Dinky Station, as well as other potentially affected landmarks in that area, including the Wawa and the McCarter Theatre Center, responded Tuesday that while the school views that a retooling of that area would best be suited to include a relocated Dinky station, the plan that was released last week was not necessarily definitive, nor was it meant to call planners to action.

"We've been told this is how we need to proceed," said Robert Durkee, vice president and secretary of Princeton University, in an interview Tuesday, pointing to developmental obstacles related to New Jersey Transit's Bus Rapid Transit initiative. Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, in its most extensive form, would create a $600 million to $700 million bus- and emergency vehicles-only roadway connecting key points along the Route 1 Penns Neck Corridor.

And while the state has not committed to financing the full amount, it is likely that any variation of a BRT would include the Dinky line to Princeton Junction as part of its route, as was indicated in November through a Bus Rapid Transit Analysis Study conducted by NJT, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, and the state's Department of Transportation.

The study indicates that an increase in rail or bus service to Princeton Junction could be more effectively coordinated with incoming trains at the Princeton Junction station. It would, according to the study, also provide increased access to points along Route 1, thereby leading to a decrease in automobile traffic.

The plan has been part of the philosophy behind planning for the PU arts neighborhood, which will likely begin to see the light of day in blueprint form after the Planning Board completes its state-mandated review of the Princeton Community Master Plan.

While concerns about moving the Dinky station have been the primary objection throughout the arts neighborhood process, University officials have maintained that moving the Dinky, in planning for a BRT, would allow for increased ease in traffic while providing space for a planned public plaza that would house a new Dinky station, as well as a new Wawa and other shops.

Jack Kanarek, NJT's senior director for project development planning, was on holiday and unavailable for comment Tuesday.

At a Planning Board Master Plan Subcommittee meeting Tuesday, however, planners did agree that a work session focusing on the Master Plan challenges raised with the University's developmental plans was called for. A tentative date of 9 a.m., June 12 was scheduled. University officials are likely to attend.

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