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DOT Plans Jughandle Closure

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The state Department of Transportation is on track to start a mid-summer program that would close jughandles on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street.

During a meeting with stakeholders on May 23, the DOT said it expects the closures to take effect on Monday, July 30, or Monday, August 6, according to a press release from the Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the transportation forum in Princeton along with the Princeton Chamber and the Capital City Minority Chamber.

The closure, originally scheduled to begin in mid-March, was deferred to allow the state time to look into concerns expressed by the community at public meetings in West Windsor and Princeton Borough in January, and a meeting with members of the Princeton business community and other stakeholders.

It would also give time for motorists to adjust to new traffic patters caused by the opening of the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

At the suggestion of business leaders, the NJDOT is looking into creating a website that municipalities and businesses can go to for up-to-date information regarding the new traffic patterns caused by the change.

“Having all of the townships and businesses provide a unified message to their employees, visitors, or anyone who is traveling to Princeton is vital to the success of this change,” said Robert Prunetti, president and CEO of the Mercer Chamber. “A website provided by the DOT would be a central location with immediate information.”

Another suggestion was to involve South Brunswick and Lawrence in the planning process because of the potential for overflow traffic into those towns.

The pilot calls for the temporary restriction of left turns and U-turns at Washington Road to northbound traffic. At Harrison Street, left turns and U-turns would be restricted to traffic in the northbound direction.

If the left-turn restrictions do not reduce congestion on Route 1 or create unacceptable impacts on local roads, the state says it will terminate the trial and restore all traffic movements. If the pilot program proves to be a success, the restrictions will be made permanent.

Joseph Dee, DOT director of communications, said that traffic signs will be placed several weeks before the plan goes into effect to alert drivers of the new methods for entering downtown Princeton.

During the trial period — scheduled to last two to three months — studies will be conducted to establish base-line data on driving patterns during peak hours, determining the effects on motorists’ drive time. Bluetooth technology will be used in cars to gather trip times throughout the trial period.

This data will be collected prior to the changes, as well as after they take effect. Dee said that the state plans on weighing the data collected, and has not ruled out reinstating the current traffic pattern if the new plan does not work efficiently.

Plainsboro Township Administrator Robert Sheehan said Route 1’s problems are bigger than just one or two intersections, and that changes to the traffic pattern will impact the entire corridor. “It is much more than intersection improvement. It has to do with long- term vision and vitality of the Route 1 corridor.”

“The solutions are few along Route 1, absent significant expenditures and major infrastructure and that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon,” Sheehan said.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” said West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, adding that traffic congestion on the highway has cost the area business development.

He added that although both intersections are located in West Windsor, the impact of the left turn prohibition will extend into South Brunswick and Lawrenceville. “We are all going to lose a little bit here and there and at the end of the day, we are going to find we all are going to gain something.”

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