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Townships Hope Connector Roads Will Alleviate Route 206 Congestion

Matthew Hersh

Members of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton met with Montgomery Township officials yesterday to examine several projects geared toward improving traffic on Route 206 along the municipal boundaries.

The target area was the increasingly gridlocked intersection of Route 206, Cherry Valley Road, and Princeton Avenue.

Last month, when Princeton Township Engineer Robert Kiser introduced a joint Princeton Township/Mont-gomery Township plan to install two connecter roads that will serve purposes similar to those of jughandles, he indicated that the Township would continue working with Montgomery to smooth out a plan to lighten the traffic load of that intersection.

In the plan, Montgomery's connector road will loop behind the Sunoco gas station going north on 206. Princeton Township is working with nearby PNC Bank to create a right-of-way through a portion of the bank parking lot that would connect Cherry Valley Road and Route 206.

If all goes according to plan, vehicles intending to make a left onto Cherry Valley Road travelling northbound on 206 would turn right onto a connector road immediately after the Sunoco, loop around and go through the traffic signal and proceed west on Cherry Valley. Vehicles headed south on 206 trying to make a left on to Princeton Avenue would also go through the intersection and make a right turn onto a new connector road at PNC Bank and subsequently proceed through the light headed east on Princeton Avenue.

Montgomery Township Mayor Louise Wilson said this is part of a municipal-wide attempt to ease traffic and promote pedestrian accessibility. Montgomery has long identified the 206 strip just north of the Princeton Township border as an area that "should" be more pedestrian friendly. "At the very least, we can make this part of Montgomery easier to get around on foot," she said. Part of this plan is to work with Princeton Township on the intersection, that has, on the Princeton side, seen the inclusion of a Commerce Bank and a CVS.

"Because this intersection is shaped like an 'X' and not a 'T'," you have this left-turn paralysis situation," Ms. Wilson said, who added that the intersection was improved somewhat with the installation of a left turn signal, "but not as much as you might want or expect."

The so-called "Sunoco loop road" will remove the left turn movement from eastbound Cherry Valley to northbound 206‹headed away from Princeton. There will also be an eastbound lane added to Princeton Avenue for cars going straight through the intersection. "We'll get a lot more cars going through the intersection during green time," Ms. Wilson said.

The westbound to southbound movement ‹ cars making a left off Princeton Avenue onto 206 toward Princeton might prove to be a bit trickier. "There's not room on Cherry Valley Road to widen the road to add a lane for people going straight to pass the people going left," Ms. Wilson said.

As the connector roads are built, possibly as early as late 2005, Mr. Kiser said the Township was looking to "mostly" close off Hillside Avenue by shutting down access at Cherry Valley and only allowing only a northbound right turn from Hillside to Cherry Valley and a right-turn only off of Cherry Valley.

"The Hillside people are long suffering," said Planning Board member Bill Enslin, referring to the nearly 200 cars per hour during peak times that use Hillside as a cut-through from 206 to Cherry Valley Road.

Mr. Kiser said he had recently met with some "very pleased" Hillside residents anxiously awaiting the day when their road no longer serves as a bypass.

In other news, a long-anticipated traffic signal at the intersection of Cherry Valley Road and the Great Road is scheduled for installation either later this fall, or in early 2006, according to Mr. Kiser, who recently received an update report from Somerset County officials. The application is currently under consideration by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP, Mr. Kiser added, is requiring a "number of items" to approve installation, including an archaeological study.

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