To the NJ DOT
Recently, the NJ DOT announced that they planned to start the Route 1 jughandle closing in mid-summer, either July 30 or August 6. Originally scheduled for mid-March, the closing was rescheduled when Princeton merchants expressed concerns about losing business. Community members in West Windsor and Princeton participated in earlier information sessions, but no actions were taken after these meetings. I believe that the actions taken in this test will not solve or even improve the Route 1 problem. Regardless of the findings, the test mut be allowed to run its full course so the results reflect the problem realistically.
One group of community members who are most directly affected by this decision are the residents of Fisher Place and Fairview, Varsity, and Wilder avenues –– “the cut-throughs” around the Route 1-Washington Road intersection. We are the people who have put up with more traffic than their streets were designed to handle, along with frequently unsafe and reckless driving. (Though I empathize with the frustration of missing one of these long lights, it does not compare with the potential trauma from hitting a pet, child, or parent. There are children on the street during the morning rush hours when this is occurring.)
DOT planners assured us that the jughandle closings would not increase the traffic on our streets. However, I can easily imagine people looking for ways to avoid driving to Scudders Mill Road to make a U-turn. With even more people trying to turn right on the southbound side of Route 1 onto Harrison Street, this will only leave two lanes to go through and further slow traffic. And even more people will be using the Fisher Place southbound jughandle (not to be closed!) to make the left turn to Washington Road or to enter SRI International’s Sarnoff campus.
Earlier this spring DOT planners were easily swayed by the Princeton merchants’ argument about losing revenues and changed the closure until August. But just how realistic is an August test, when local schools are out, Princeton University is closed, and traffic is lighter because many people are on vacation? Hopefully this test will continue into and through all of September, a month with more typical traffic patterns, so the test will realistically reflect an extended period of traffic (even if Princeton merchants protest again).
Those of us who actually live on these residential streets have put up with more traffic than is reasonable and safe for a long time. This test will probably make the traffic and our lives even worse. For as long as I can remember (and I first moved into Penns Neck in 1978) we have been promised that the master plan involves eliminating all three lights and turning Fisher Place and Varsity Avenue into cul-de-sacs. So let’s make this test realistic. Let’s eliminate the Fisher Place jughandle and close off Varsity Avenue, too.
The only real solution is an east-west connector with full Route 1 access. The “Route 1-in-a-cut” solution or what was in the Millstone Bypass, with an interchange overpass at Harrison and an underpass at Washington Road or both, would work. But these options are not possible because the first is too expensive and the second would increase traffic into Princeton.
The problems on Route 1 are connected with the problems throughout the region. And if you really want to take traffic, especially trucks, off Routes 1, 206, and 31, then there needs to be a limited-access highway connecting I-95 in Pennington to Route 18 and the Turnpike in New Brunswick.
Princeton merchants may ask to halt the test in September, but in the interest of fairness and accuracy it is important that we have a test that includes a month with real traffic patterns. Traffic already backs up on the Scudders Mill overpass in the mornings, so it is likely that this test will prove this “solution” is unworkable. Hopefully, once we get past this test we can start efforts at a real solution.
And when it comes to implementing a real solution, not only is it critical that ALL stakeholders are heard, including taxpayers, voting citizens, and the people most affected, who live on these busy streets, but everyone will have to make some sacrifices for a long-lasting solution. Just like the short-term choices made in the 1950s are the underlying reason for the problems we are having today, we need to make better decisions that effectively serve our communities now and in the future.
Battlefield Fight Is Not Over
Memorial Day has come and gone. The Princeton Battlefield Society held the largest re-enactment in a decade on the battlefield. Our veterans were remembered.
Hundreds upon hundreds came from as far as Michigan, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and all over New Jersey. They all wanted to know what was happening with the Institute for Advanced Study and the battlefield.
So I explained the society has gone to court to protect the battlefield from the IAS development. I further relayed that the society has contacted the DEP to review the application, since it appears the IAS wants to build on wetlands. They shake their heads in disbelief.
“What about the settlement they say?” I explain that as the chief opponent, the society was not involved, so there was no settlement. Again they ask about the MacPherson-Fischer agreement and I explain that they never involved us, so there was no agreement.
I am glad so many people came to the Memorial Day event. They learned something about history, about the American Revolution, and about modern government. They took our brochures and made donations for the legal defense of the battlefield. They will write letters to the governor, their representatives, the vice president, and whomever else is necessary to protect the Princeton Battlefield. I think that may be the highest compliment to those who served, that the American people follow the process fought for on this very battlefield.