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Penns Neck Resident Proposes Route 1 Alternative

Eric Payne praises the New Jersey DOT for tackling the traffic issues, but says the state's concept plan isn't the right solution.

 

Although the New Jersey Department of Transportation has proposed a concept plan to reduce congestion along Route 1, a Penns Neck resident says it's not the right solution. 

"This is exactly the (failed) pilot plan, but it's worse because they're adding a light," said Eric Payne. "Anytime you add a stop ,you add delay. Adding lanes is good, but adding a light will nullify it. 

"Let's bite the bullet and do it right the first time," said Payne, a member of a volunteer group of concerned citizens known as Smart Traffic Solutions.  

The best idea, he says, is to build an overpass over Route 1. But if that plan isn't economically feasible, he proposes a first- and less expensive- step. 

His plan includes: 

  • Eliminating jughandles and lights at Washington Road and Harrison Streets. 
  • Eliminating the jughandle and traffic light at Fisher Place.
  • Constructing new jughandles on either side of Route 1 approximately halfway between the Washington Road and Harrison Street intersections. 
  • Construct a road on the northbound side of Route 1 just north of Washington Road. That road, a new Route 571, would extend all the way to Princeton Junction train station. 
  • Build a new road on the southbound side of Route 1 just south of Harrison Street that would extend from Harrison Street, behind the gas station and the power station and connect to the new jughandle. 
  • Build a new road on the southbound side of Route 1 just north of Washington Road that would extend to the new jughandle. 

Creating a road parallel to Route one that would distribute traffic evenly into Princeton via both Harrison Street and Washington Road would eliminate bottlenecks in and out of Princeton, Payne said. 

As a second step, Payne suggests constructing an overpass where the new jughandle would be located- between Washington Road and Harrison Street. 

"The way I look at it, this (traffic issue) has been going on, no joke, 10-15 years," Payne said. "At the time of the original plan, the estimate was it would cost $15 million to get it done. Just to widen Route 1 now is $35 million. We can't afford not to do it with the amount of growth projected for this area."

The scenario Payne describes is different from the one DOT Commissioner James Simpson has proposed. Simpson's conceptual plan includes the following:

  • Widening Route 1 to four lanes in both directions.
  • Eliminating the jughandles at Washington Road and Harrison Street. 
  • Eliminating the jughandle and traffic light at Fisher Place in Penns Neck.
  • Constructing new jughandles on either side of Route 1 approximately halfway between the Washington Road and Harrison Street intersections. 
  • Constructing a partial circle and light at Route 1 and Washington Road so that drivers traveling south on Route 1 could turn left onto Route 571 towards the Princeton Junction train station. 

The estimated $40 million project has no funding yet. 

Previous plans were dismissed over environmental concerns about building too close to the D&R Canal or Elm Alley along Washington Road. Payne says the Smart Traffic Solutions' option will skirt environmentally sensitive land. 

NJ DOT's pilot program last fall to close the jughandles at Harrison Street and Washington Road was cut short after residents of the Penns Neck neighborhood in West Windsor protested over a massive traffic influx and commuters overrunning small residential streets in an effort to avoid traffic delays. 

"We want to support the DOT, but they have to come up with a logical solution," Payne said, noting that the DOT's proposed solution severely limits access to Princeton on Harrison Street and Washington Road for northbound drivers. 

"The pilot program failed by their own admission, please do not impose it again," Payne said. 

Now he's trying to get support for the alternative plan from residents, politicians, and ultimately, the DOT. It's a challenge, because Payne's proposed solution includes constructing new roads, which would normally be paid for by the municipality, not NJ DOT. Still, state officials have told him that if he can get overwhelming support for this plan, DOT will consider it. 

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