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Borough, University Spar Over Dinky

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Princeton Borough and Princeton University officials are at odds over a move by the Borough to establish a transportation easement that could impact the university’s plans for a proposed $300 million arts campus.

Borough Council on April 10 voted 3-2 to introduce an ordinance that would preserve the Dinky rail line’s current right of way. The move would prevent any construction in the area without approval from the town.

The measure is in direct opposition to the university’s plans, which call for the current state easement to be eliminated and the rail line to be terminated about 460 feet south of its existing location. A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22.

Under the university’s plans, the Dinky station and Wawa would be moved to the new terminus. The state is considering an application by N.J. Transit to vacate its right of way in the area where the tracks would no longer be used.

The ordinance would re-establish a transportation easement where the state easement is being vacated. Supporters of the ordinance say it preserves the town’s right to establish a rail line from Nassau Street to Princeton Junction.

“We don’t know what will happen over the next 65 years, what kind of technology will develop so that we could extend transit service to Nassau Street,” said Councilman Roger Martindell, who voted in favor of the ordinance. “We don’t know the technology or the route. This will give us more options to explore.”

Princeton University Vice President Robert Durkee argues that the borough easement could cause problems with the arts center plan, which includes a proposal to renovate the old Dinky station and turn it into a restaurant.

Durkee said the university was blindsided. “There has been no prior discussion, no attempt to cooperate or collaborate.”

The arts and transit neighborhood plan is expected to be submitted to the Princeton Regional Planning Board sometime this spring. In addition to the move of the Dinky station and Wawa, the plan also calls for the Lewis Center for the Arts to be located in the neighborhood.

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