Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 40
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
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The New Memorandum of Understanding Includes Additional University Funding

Anne Levin

The new and improved “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) announced last week between Princeton University, Princeton Borough, and Princeton Township reflects a summer of negotiations by a six-member committee from the three entities. Robert K. Durkee, who represented the University, has high hopes that the revamping will result in approval by the two governing bodies, giving the green light to the University’s plan for a $300 million arts and transit complex that would include moving the Dinky station.

“It is improved, I think,” said Mr. Durkee, Princeton University vice president and secretary, on Tuesday, October 4. “From the beginning, we hoped that the MOU. would allow us to address some transit needs in the community in addition to the arts and transit, so we’re happy to be able to do that. We seem to have solid agreement among the six of us who drafted the agreement, and I’m hoping that Borough Council will approve it at their meeting tonight and Township Committee later in the month.”

Mr. Durkee said he also hopes the Planning Board will complete its review of the proposed zoning ordinances at its meeting on Thursday, October 6.

Among the most significant changes in the revised memorandum are additional funding for a study committee, improvements to Nassau Street crosswalks, and doubling of the money for a transportation trust fund. Some of the actions proposed by the University would take effect immediately, while others would happen later on in the process.

“One of the first things we would do is approach New Jersey Transit to see if they would allow us to open the Dinky station for some of the day, during the week,” Mr. Durkee said. “One of the things that I think has been misunderstood in some of the public discussion is that under the current contract, New Jersey Transit is responsible for operating the buildings. We own and maintain them. So it’s been a kind of spotty history where sometimes they have had them open for a while, and sometimes not. We would seek permission, and I’m fairly confident they would grant it, to open five hours each weekday, and be heated and lighted with restrooms.”

Another initiative would be the institution of a transit task force to study issues of mass transit and future transit. The previous draft agreement would have created this group only after approval from the Borough and Township of rezoning for the arts and transit neighborhood. “We would get started on that study right away,” Mr. Durkee said.

The University would make available $450,000 for three illuminated pedestrian crosswalks at three Nassau Street locations: Tulane Street, Palmer Square, and 185 Nassau Street.

The new document says the University would agree to preserve the mass transit right of way for 65 years instead of the originally proposed 50 years. Princeton Borough and Township agree to provide a right of way on public property as needed. If nothing is built within the 65 years, the easements would terminate.

Once zoning is approved, the University would undertake a second study examining traffic issues in Princeton as a whole. The focus would be on the downtown business district and how such new Princeton University projects as Merwick and Stanworth would affect them.

“Most of the agreement takes effect once we have Planning Board approval for the project,” said Mr. Durkee. “They have a few questions still to address. I’m hoping they’ll finish their work on the ordinances and send them back, so by the end of the week, at least one municipality will approve the MOU and send them on.”

The full MOU is available on the websites of the Borough and Township.

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