May 22, 2019

Mayor Lempert Responds to Letter On Congestion, Fueling Station

To the Editor:

The municipality appreciates and understands the concerns raised by neighbors. We have taken a number of steps to help mitigate these concerns including changing the scheduling so municipal and other agency vehicles do not fuel during the morning rush. There have been some violators of this policy, but we have taken steps to rectify the situation and do not expect it to happen again. In terms of the vehicles entering the facility from the wrong side, this is unavoidable as some vehicles have fuel tanks on the passenger side.

The municipality has investigated a number of alternative sites for the fueling station, however none were suitable. The fueling station is shared by the municipality and school district and is used to fuel municipal vehicles, ambulances, school buses, and fire trucks. When evaluating sites, one criterion was whether the site provided enough space for these larger vehicles to maneuver. (The Harrison Street Garage and John Street Public Works site, for example, were both rejected based on lack of space.) The Shopping Center parking lot was considered, but it is privately owned, and the owner was not interested in committing to this use. The Valley Road School site was considered and rejected because the school district is in the middle of its facilities planning and the use of this site has not yet been determined. There is already a small fueling station at the Public Works site on River Road, used primarily by Sewer Operations. This site was rejected as the main fueling station because it is too remote and access to the site is often blocked by flooding during heavy rain. Ultimately, moving the fueling station across the site to its current location was deemed the best option. The new tank is indeed larger, in order to provide adequate fuel for municipal operations during major storm events. The site is still under construction and there are plans to further screen the fueling station by enlarging the brick enclosure and by adding landscaping.

Traffic issues in this area have long been challenging and complicated by the fact that Route 206 is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation. The municipality has added striping to improve traffic flow in the area. We continue to work with the DOT on additional improvements to relieve the traffic in the area. Princeton is requesting changes to the traffic signal timing to allow more green time for the Cherry Hill movements. We are strongly advocating with DOT to allow a left turn from westbound Valley Road to southbound Route 206. We are also working with DOT on further improving the Cherry Hill Road lane striping at the Cherry Hill/206 intersection. Police are reviewing pedestrian safety in the area with special attention to school children.

The process for this project has been public and began with an April 2014 Memorandum of Understanding between the municipality and PFARS. The Planning Board discussed traffic impacts at its April 2015 meeting. A Valley Road design meeting was held in May 2015. Council passed resolutions supporting a signal at Valley Road at its May 19, 2015 meeting. A second MOU was approved on December 19, 2016. PFARS held a neighborhood meeting and presented to Council in September 2017. The Shade Tree Commission and  Environmental Commission reviewed the plans in October and November 2017. The Site Plan Review Advisory Board and then the Zoning Board reviewed the plans in January and then February 2018. Council approved the purchase of the fuel station in March.

As Princeton grows, available space becomes scarcer, and demands on our infrastructure increase. Princeton’s First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS) is building its new headquarters at the corner of Witherspoon and Valley, at the former Township Public Works site. Because PFARS provides essential public safety services to the community, the municipality has worked closely with the organization to ensure they have sufficient facilities. Providing support to institutions like PFARS is essential to ensuring the health and safety of our community.