#b#Bridge to Be Replaced#/b#

Believe it this time — the process has crawled along like I-95 traffic during rush hour, but the construction of a new and improved Scudder Falls Bridge will begin in earnest in 2017, according to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. In January crews began removing trees and clearing the site for a $328 million, four-year project that will replace the four-lane span with a nine-lane toll bridge. The replacement has been in the works since 2003.

According to the commission, traffic will continue to flow across the bridge throughout the project. First the southbound lanes of the new bridge will be constructed alongside the old bridge, which will remain open. When the southbound lanes of the new bridge are ready, all traffic will be shifted over to the new span, which has enough room for two lanes in each direction. Then the old bridge will be demolished and replaced with an entirely new structure. Finally, all lanes will be open to traffic.

The new bridge is designed to be far safer than the one it is replacing. The hazardous interchanges and short acceleration lanes on both sides of the bridge will be replaced by on-ramps that meet modern safety standards. The new bridge is also wide enough to fit shoulders in both directions so broken-down vehicles can pull off to the side of the road.

The new bridge will even have a pedestrian and bike path, connected to the canal tow paths on both sides of the river and separated from highway traffic by a 10-foot-high sound barrier.

But this extensive construction project will not come cheap. The price tag of the bridge will be covered by a new feature that motorists will not welcome: tolls. The commission has not revealed what the cost of the tolls will be, but has said that they will be collected electronically, with no toll booths involved. EZ-Pass customers will be automatically charged, while those without EZ-Pass transponders will have their license plates photographed and bills sent to their houses.

#b#Canal Pointe Paving May End Shortcut#/b#

Canal Pointe Boulevard, a minor tributary of Route 1 that runs from Emmons Drive to Alexander Road, is in for a major reconfiguration that could take away one lane of car traffic on the four-lane road to make room for a designated left-hand tuirning lane and room for cyclists and pedestrians. The changes are intended to make the street less appealing as a way for drivers to get around Route 1 gridlock.

The project is currently tied up in a dispute between West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, who favors the reduction from four lanes to three, and some members of the township council who oppose it. If the project moves forward, the earliest start for road improvements would be this fall.

Both the mayor and the council agree the pockmarked road urgently needs repaving. However, several council members have questioned the mayor’s proposed “road diet” for car lane reductions.

The proposed repaving would reduce the current four-lane configuration to three lanes: one narrower car travel lane in each direction plus a center lane for left turns. In addition, bike lanes would be marked on both sides. The intent is to improve safety by slowing down traffic and to deter rush hour commuters from using the segment of Canal Pointe Boulevard between Alexander and Meadow roads as a Route 1 bypass.

Slower traffic, and the addition of bike lanes, would in turn improve future bicycle and pedestrian access for the neighborhoods and businesses that straddle the road.

West Windsor Township has long opposed the use of Canal Pointe Boulevard as an alternate to Route 1. Previous road design proposals from more than 20 years ago, pushed by neighboring municipalities seeking to shift Route 1 traffic onto township roads, called for the boulevard to extend past Princeton Country Club and into the Nassau Park retail center. Currently the administration sees the long overdue repaving as an opportunity to reconfigure the road lanes and further discourage non-local commuters.

Hsueh said the proposed redesign also complements bicycle initiatives by the businesses along Canal Pointe Boulevard. Princeton University and NRG are working on installing bicycle sharing programs for their offices off CPB, while Market Fair is exploring bicycle storage. Cycling and walking advocates have also advocated for making roadways friendlier to people traveling by means other than automobile (U.S. 1, February 17, 2016.)

However, Councilman Hemant Marathe has emerged as a vocal critic of the road diet plan. He slammed the mayor for not discussing the road diet proposal with Council. With the future residential development (Princeton Theological Seminary owns land on Wheeler Way that is zoned for up to 400 apartment units) and up to 1 million square feet of office space expansion at Carnegie Center West off Canal Pointe Boulevard, Marathe argues lane reductions could worsen traffic conditions. He also says lane reductions would negatively impact fire and emergency vehicle access.

But Council member Alison Miller, who is also an officer of the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, said that the road diet benefits far outweigh the overstated downsides.

“What’s paramount is safety for the people who use the road the most and for people who have to use the road, which means the residents,” Miller said. “The people who use it as a shortcut have other options. The residents do not. I’ve heard a lot about sideswipes, rear endings, near misses. The first consideration is for those who are turning left going into the businesses or the residences.”

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