October 23, 2019

Alexander Closure Begins November 6

By Anne Levin

When dangerously deteriorated structural conditions on the Alexander Street bridge closed the roadway for several days last April, Princeton municipal leaders and local police were taken by surprise. But this time around, the town has gotten plenty of notice. Starting Wednesday, November 6, and continuing for an estimated 135 days, Alexander Street will be closed between Lawrence Drive in Princeton to Canal Pointe Boulevard in West Windsor.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), owner of the D&R Canal Bridge, has contracted with Anselmi & DeCicco, Inc. to replace the bridge structure.  Mercer County Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (MCDOTI) has contracted with Marbro, Inc. to replace the truss bridge over Stony Brook and a stream culvert located south of Lawrence Drive.   

This weekend, from 8 p.m. Friday, October 25 through 5 a.m. Sunday, or earlier if possible, the road will be closed for preparatory work.

In the meantime, variable message boards have been warning motorists for weeks of the impending 135-day closure. A special website (bridgeclosure.princeton.edu) has been posted by Princeton University, and there is a link on the municipal site (princetonnj.gov) devoted to the project. Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter is urging residents to follow traffic updates, once the road is closed, on the department’s Nixle, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

“The roads are going to be very congested,” he said at a press conference Monday, October 21. “When it comes to volume, it’s going to be tough. But we’re doing everything we can to be ready.”

Representatives from the Princeton
Police, Princeton’s Department of Emergency and Safety Services, Princeton University, Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, and the Princeton Fire Department met Monday morning to coordinate preparations for the closure. Sutter said the police department’s dispatch staff will be increased and extra officers will be on duty during rush hours for the duration of the project.

The detour route posted on the municipal website suggests utilizing Faculty Road, Washington Road, and Route 1. Princeton residents on Basin Street and Karin Court will access their properties via Lawrence Drive for the duration of the construction project. Alexander Street will be open up to the Metro North restaurant.  Residents of Lawrence Apartments and patrons of the Springdale Golf Club will have access via Lawrence Drive from Alexander Street.

Motorists are urged to use other routes in and out of town, work from home whenever possible, carpool, and take alternative transportation such as the Dinky train. Mayor Liz Lempert said the town is encouraging commuters to use the Dinky to access the Princeton Junction train station or offices on Alexander Road in West Windsor. Tiger Transit buses, which are free, will be available. Extra trips on the Dinky during rush hour have been requested, but NJ Transit has not yet responded Lempert said.

At over 70 years old, the bridges are in deteriorating condition and are too narrow for today’s traffic. The project will include widening the structures, with shoulders and sidewalks added to both sides.

From November 6 through December, parking will be free at meters in Princeton’s central business district on weeknights after 6 p.m. The measure, which was recently approved by Princeton Council, is designed to help out merchants during the holiday season, and to encourage people to stay in town until after the evening rush and patronize local restaurants.

The NJDOT will have signs along Route 1 advising motorists of traffic and congestion. 

The Greater Mercer County Transportation Management Association is available to assist with alternative travel options during the closure. They can provide insight and/or assistance with ride-sharing, telecommuting, and flex hours. Visit https://gmtma.org/ for information.

Most of all, the public is urged to exercise patience. “People get scared, frustrated, and angry when they are delayed like they are going to be,” said Sutter. “But they need to avoid aggressive driving. The only thing that’s going to help is patience.”