June 12, 2024

Johnson Trolley Corridor is Subject of Study at Information Session

By Anne Levin

Nearly a century ago, it was possible to travel by trolley between Trenton and Princeton. The trip cost 10 cents and took 35 minutes.

The Johnson Trolley, also known as the Princeton-Lawrenceville-Trenton Fast Line, took travelers between Witherspoon Street near Nassau Street and North Willow Street in Trenton. The Trenton-Princeton Traction Company ran the trolley through this corridor from 1902 to 1940.

In recent years, it has been known as the Johnson Trolley Trail, part of the vast regional network of Circuit Trails used for biking, walking, and running. It is the subject of a public Zoom session being held Wednesday, June 12 from 6-8 p.m. by Mercer County and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

The purpose is to introduce the study and share preliminary routes to be considered that would extend the northern and southern sections of the Johnson Trolley Trail Corridor. Soliciting feedback from the public is a goal of the session.

“The study will identify an alignment to connect and extend two existing trail segments that will create a bicycle and pedestrian corridor between the City of Trenton and the Municipality of Princeton, and pass through Lawrence and Ewing townships,” reads a statement from Mercer County. “A substantial element of the project is to investigate the historic rail right-of-way and alternative alignments to connect a safe multimodal facility to existing and planned facilities.”

Goals of the project are “to link areas of high economic distress with areas of increasing economic opportunity, provide a safe alternative to traditional motor vehicle transportation, and connect local residential, commercial, and institutional areas with open space, parks, and recreational facilities.”

The corridor would be a “spine” connecting to existing “multimodal connectors,” the statement reads. That means access to employment opportunities, educational institutions, and parks, without the use of cars. Several schools and higher education institutions, such as Princeton University, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Theological Seminary, Rider University, and The College of New Jersey, among others, are within a mile of the proposed alignment.

The trolley reached its peak in 1921, collecting 1.6 million fares, according to information from Mercer County. An advertisement in the Princeton Directory from 1926 boasts “Smoking Compartments in Every Car, New All Steel Cars in Service, Safety First, and Automatic Block Signage.”

Trolleys passed “through vast farmland and what is now Olden Avenue, Spruce Street, Eggerts Crossing Road, I-295, Lawrenceville Village, and the Municipality of Princeton,” according to the statement from Mercer County.

The trolley line was purchased in 1929 by the Reading Railroad, which ran local freight service until 1973, when the new interstate cut off access to the line. The trail currently occupies only a portion of the old right-of-way abandoned by the former trolley company.

Development of the corridor would require a pedestrian bridge over I-295, improvement of existing rights of way on the historic Johnson Trolley Line, and identifying the best way to align it with new trail construction where the trolley right of way has been privately developed.

To join the online meeting, visit zoom.us/j/99300558649. Public comments will be accepted through July 10. Submit them to Sophia Fox at sfox@stokescg.com.