November 13, 2019

Why Couldn’t Work on Alexander Road Have Been Completed During Summer?

To the Editor:

The traffic in and around Princeton has become nearly unbearable and it could have been avoided had our municipal officials thoroughly considered the implications of the broad plans and put themselves in the average resident’s shoes by negotiating harder with the NJ DOT and Mercer County who are leading the Alexander Road project. But, in reality, it began with the municipal gas station/First Aid Squad building and the closing of the Terhune/206 intersection, which has created a permanent, monstrous traffic jam. And, the latest “restriping/resigning” of Cherry Hill Road at 206 has made little difference without also creating dedicated left-turn signals. Another half-baked initiative.

Nevertheless, the Alexander Road bridge closure has made travel in and out of Princeton nearly impossible by creating long lines of traffic on Route 1 and surrounding roads. Why couldn’t the majority of this project been completed during the summer, when schools are closed, Princeton University is in recess, and many people are away on vacation? While it would have still been an inconvenience, it would have been less so and the work would have likely gone more quickly at that time of year.

And, to schedule the voluminous local street work/paving for fall is also foolhardy. Add to all this, PSE&G’s initiatives throughout the region. Again, why couldn’t this work have been completed during the summer? These combined projects have resulted in Princeton gridlock with no sense of normalcy expected until at least late spring/early summer 2020. The excuse can’t be lack of personnel as it requires the same number of workers to accomplish the work during the school year as it would have during the summer. Clearly, our elected Princeton officials are out-of-touch with reality and have let the residents down by not negotiating harder with the DOT, Mercer County, and PSE&G to schedule their work with the least amount of disruption.

Barry Goldblatt
Andrews Lane

Mayor Lempert’s response follows:

No one likes the inconvenience and traffic caused by road work, but it is often necessary to keep our community safe. The state and county bridges on Alexander Street were structurally deficient and desperately needed replacing. Construction schedules were largely driven by timing restrictions associated with environmental permitting. Work within streams or the banks of streams is prohibited between May 1 and July 31. Clearing of trees is prohibited between April 1 and September 30, and other Department of Environmental Protection restrictions prevented work from beginning before November.

The municipality and Princeton University pressed the state and county to coordinate work schedules and these separate agencies agreed to a coordinated and accelerated construction phase to minimize impacts to the environment and the community. This successful coordination reflects the municipality’s desire to minimize the impact of these necessary improvements on our residents and those who work in and visit Princeton.

Since spring, PSEG has been doing extensive work throughout Princeton to replace aging gas mains and services. It is especially inconvenient when this occurs on a busy street like Nassau Street, but as we’ve witnessed tragedies across the country caused by aging gas lines, we know it’s imperative that this infrastructure be kept in good repair.

Finally, Princeton is long overdue in having an adequate facility for our volunteer First Aid and Rescue Squad to provide vital services to our growing community. The new road striping is one part of a multi-phased response to improve circulation in the area. Daily inspections of live traffic camera footage clearly show that the newly striped lanes have made a significant impact on reducing queues. More information about all these projects can be found on the municipal website: on the Engineering Department page.