NJDOT has a new plan to fix the intersection of Route 1 and Washington Road, where the rush hour traffic is bumper-to-bumper in all directions. In a more immediate fix, the transportation department is planning a pilot project to turn shoulders into travel lanes for a two-mile stretch of Route 1 in South Brunswick during rush hour, in a pilot project beginning Monday, June 26.
The South Brunswick project, which turns shoulders into relief lanes, uses little more than paint and a few signs in an attempt to relieve congestion between Independence Way and Raymond Road, where the highway narrows to two lanes in each direction. The shoulders will be open to traffic between 6 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 7 p.m. every day during the trial.
NJDOT calls the procedure “hard shoulder running,” and said in a press release that only a one-foot wide shoulder would remain after lane repainting. Outside of rush hour, the travel lanes would once again become shoulders. Although widely used in Europe, it is uncommon in the U.S. but is growing in popularity. “NJDOT has been using hard shoulder running successfully on Route 29 northbound approaching the Route 129 interchange in Trenton for several years,” the department said in a press release.
The shoulder running could become permanent if the planned six-month trial is successful.
The Washington Road concept plan, introduced to West Windsor authorities at a May 22 council meeting, calls for the highway to be widened in both directions between the Millstone Bridge and the Dinky railway overpass to the south.
The traffic circle intersection at Washington Road will be expanded to provide more lanes, and new traffic lights will regulate the number of cars going into the circle to make it work more efficiently.
The Harrison Street intersection will also see improvements. Currently, the traffic light there has three phases: one for Route 1 north and southbound traffic, one for cars turning left and right from Harrison Street onto Route 1, and one for cars going straight on to Harrison Street or turning onto Route 1 from the SRI property on the other side.
Under the new plan, cars turning left from Harrison Street onto Route 1 North will have to go straight instead, through an upgraded jug handle instead of turning directly left. Officials say this change will allow the combination of the SRI and Harrison street light phases, so the traffic light will only need two phases rather than three, therefore allowing more green-light time for Route 1 traffic.
The new plan has been developed in the five years since the failure of a pilot project in 2012 that tried to improve traffic flow on Route 1 by simply closing jug handles on that stretch of road to eliminate left turns. The project was cancelled after several months because confused drivers ended up on side streets in the Penns Neck neighborhood in West Windsor.
West Windsor township engineer Francis Guzik wrote in a memo to town officials that the proposed fix was “not a final solution to regional traffic issues, but is an interim one that has been found to be acceptable to all the entities involved to date. More importantly, it is a feasible one with an estimated cost the NJDOT is willing to undertake the pursuit of funding for.”
The project could begin as early as 2018 and would take about three years to complete. Township residents have been calling for the more expensive but potentially more effective solution of building an overpass or underpass at the problematic intersection.
“Although not a bypass/overpass, there is a concept plan I think we can all get behind,” wrote Eric Payne of Smart Traffic Solutions. Payne, who was a vocal opponent of the 2012 jug handle experiment, said the DOT had made an effort to meet the concerns of the community. “It does not appear, from what I can see, to have a negative impact on Penns Neck and should greatly improve Route 1.”