Witherspoon Street Construction is On Schedule
By Anne Levin
At its first in-person meeting since the beginning of the pandemic more than two years ago, Princeton Council held two work sessions on the town’s ongoing parking issues, and heard an update on construction projects that have been underway on Witherspoon Street and Chambers Street.
The good news, as reported by Municipal Land Use Engineer Jim Purcell, is that work on both projects is on schedule. The section of Witherspoon Street between Nassau Street and Paul Robeson Place is expected to be completely open to traffic and pedestrians by the end of October, in time for the holiday season. “They won’t be working over the winter, so they will be completely out of our way while all the shopping and revelry takes place during all of the holidays,” he said.
Merchants on Witherspoon Street have complained that the Witherspoon Street Improvement Project, which has involved relocating and upgrading sanitary and storm sewers and the replacement of curbs and sidewalks, has caused a serious downturn in business. In response, Council introduced an ordinance increasing free parking in the Spring Street Garage from 30 minutes to one hour, seven days a week. The time limit would revert back to 30 minutes on July 31, 2023, or when the Witherspoon Street project’s first phase is finished. The ordinance also permits free parking on certain holidays. A public hearing will be held at the next Council meeting on September 27.
On Chambers Street, demolition that began in May for the Graduate Hotel project has necessitated road and lane closures. The project is expected to take 20 months to complete. “Rest assured, the contractors are moving along as diligently and efficiently as possible and hope to be out of our hair right on time,” Purcell said.
The two work sessions involved proposed parking hours on Witherspoon Street, between Nassau Street and Spring Street, once work is completed; and permit parking on Bank Street and in the Witherspoon-Jackson and Tree Streets neighborhoods.
Regarding Witherspoon Street, Deputy Administrator and Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton said staff recommended it be limited to loading on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays (no loading on Sundays). Otherwise, three-hour metered parking by kiosk would be allowed from 5 to 8 p.m.
Mondays to Thursdays; 5 to 9 p.m. on Fridays; 12 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays; and 1 to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros, who serves on the board of the Princeton Business Partnership (PBP), said some of the merchants on Witherspoon Street might have some issues with the proposed delivery hours, and that she would come back to Council with their thoughts.
Residential parking only is recommended for Bank Street, Stockton said. No public parking would be permitted, and permits for residents would be available by lottery at $10 a month or $120 a year. No guest permits would be available, but the street is near three parking garages, she pointed out.
Councilwoman Mia Sacks commented that while she understands making a concession to residents of narrow Bank Street, where parking is extremely limited, “It is not sustainable for the town to continue being as car-centric as we are now.” Councilman Leighton Newlin agreed, but praised the municipal staff for their work on the issue. “I think what staff has come up with is remarkable for timing and comprehensiveness,” he said. “It’s a good start and we should endorse it.”
Councilman David Cohen said the town needs “a really robust transit system,” and emphasized that on-street parking is the most sustainable parking there is because it doesn’t involve construction.
In the Witherspoon-Jackson and Tree Streets neighborhoods, it is proposed that parking be permitted by zone rather than by street, with a three-hour time limit on unpermitted parking. Specifics and details on the proposed parking regulations and changes presented at the work sessions are posted on the municipal website, princetonnj.gov.