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Municipalities, School Board Explore Solutions for School Parking Foul Up

Matthew Hersh

The Princeton Township Committee endorsed a set of short-term solutions put forth by an ad hoc group organized to address parking woes at Princeton High School. The solutions would create about 115 spaces if implemented.

They include reserving parking along Walnut Lane and Franklin Avenue solely for student use on school days during school hours. According to the parking committee's report, that measure would free up about 90 spaces for students. Another proposal recommended that there be a temporary gravel lot created on the Westminster Choir College campus for shared use, but even parking committee members conceded that solution was unlikely to occur.

Another recommendation put forth was to widen a Borough portion of Walnut Lane to create an additional 30 spaces. The report added that the proposal would only be effective if all current construction workers park in gravel lots, and all students and faculty park only in designated areas. The proposal also includes a proposed permit system for students and faculty.

The ideas presented before Committee are intended to create student and faculty parking, preserve the High School green, and improve the overall quality of life throughout the school neighborhood, according to parking committee member Rachel Howard.

Any costs in the ad hoc committee's plan would be equally split between the Borough, Township, and Princeton Regional School Board.

School Board president Anne Burns said that a "zero-dollar solution" is being sought to address the problem. She added that while some of the proposed solutions are more realistic than others, the Walnut Lane plan for 90 spaces is "very, very doable."

However, Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand said that she thought the monitoring of student parking on Walnut and Franklin should be done by the schools if a permit system is established for school-hours parking.

"It is a tremendous burden on the Police Department to be checking these permits," she said.

The mayor did say that widening Walnut Lane was in the realm of possibility, but Committee member Casey Hegener, who is the Township liaison to the Traffic Safety Committee, said that widening that roadway would be a secondary measure only if the preliminary proposals did not ultimately pan out.

Another issue raised by the Township was how the ad hoc group could "culturally" change the mindset of new drivers. Ms. Hegener said there is a need to arrive at a "critical mass of cultural change" within the student population.

But the School Board's Ms. Burns questioned whether that strategy would work saying that new drivers will drive regardless of the length of the commute.

Another concern addressed by parking committee member and school neighborhood resident, Phyllis Teitelbaum, was that students would end up parking in non-designated areas even if a permit system were implemented.

The ad hoc committee's report estimates that approximately 90 to 145 high school students drive to school daily. The number of tickets issued on roads near the school has skyrocketed to 3,426 in March, up from 1,549 handed out in December.

Parking woes at the school worsened in October with the onset of construction and renovation projects at the school.

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