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This article by Richard K. Rein was prepared for the October 2, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

On Roads

I decided to drive over to the "in-progress"

review of the Millstone Bypass the other night, but at the last minute

— as I was walking across the parking lot to my car — I changed

my mind.

What the heck, I thought, as I realized that the conference center

of the New Jersey Hospital Association on Alexander Road is literally

right next door to our office at 12 Roszel Road, why don’t I just

walk?

So I did. Down the driveway from our parking lot (with an eye and

ear alert for cars zooming in or out), out to the sidewalk on Roszel

Road, 50 yards or so up to the Roszel Road entrance to the NJHA parking

lot (stepping up the pace here to lessen the chance of being smacked

by a motorist rushing in to make the 7 p.m. presentation by the Voorhees

Transportation Policy Institute of Rutgers, the group charged by the

state DOT with developing the Environmental Impact Statement that

is now being reviewed), and then across the several acres of parking

to the entrance of the conference center.

Breathing a little more quickly than the typical motorist ambling

in from outside, I felt the need to explain myself to the people at

the sign-in desk: "I actually walked here," I announced, "and

I’m probably the only person in the group who did."

"You walked?" one of the planners asked. "Well you might

not ever walk again after we get done."

The sign-in group looked dumbfounded. I was at a loss for words myself.

"I’m kidding," the man finally said.

He sure was. From one "preferred alignment" for this Route

1 bypass just two years ago, the planners — a group of 32 people

from private, public, and non-profit organizations who met 24 times

— have come up with no fewer than 18 possible schemes for improving

the traffic flow in the area of Route 1, Washington Road, and Harrison

Street. And on most of them a lane would be set aside for bicyclists

and — presumably — pedestrians.

So what about those 18 schemes? As even Jon Carnegie of the Voorhees

Institute conceded in his presentation to a group of about 50 people

on Monday, September 30, "18 alternatives is quite a bit."

Wisely the planners bundled them into seven groups.

To me the various scenarios reminded me of a heartbeat in time when

I left journalism to try my hand at an environmental planning firm.

The firm occasionally summoned its staff together for "imagineering"

sessions, when anyone could offer solutions to a given problem and

the only ground rules were that all proposals had to be considered

and no one could discount any proposal by simply saying "that’s

stupid," or "it will never work."

Some of the 18 schemes for Route 1 looked like they came straight

out of an imagineering session. But if money were no object (and with

highway projects it hardly ever is), I would implement the best parts

of each scheme: We would have Route 1 dug out between Alexander Road

and Harrison Street, allowing traffic on Washington Road and Fisher

Place to cruise above.

The Harrison Street light would be replaced by a cloverleaf connecting

to a bypass road leading to Route 571 near the present railroad bridge.

That would tie in with an extended Vaughn Drive connecting to Alexander

Road. On the other side of Route 1 that bypass would connect with

Harrison Street, Washington Road, and then onto Alexander Road.

Two years ago I was one of the supporters of the "preferred alignment"

proposed by the DOT — my only concern was that the bypass not

be used an opportunity to close off Washington Road. That road, I

argued, had to at least remain open to right turns in and out from

Route 1 South. Otherwise too much traffic would be funneled onto little

Harrison Street in Princeton. Not a good idea.

Now I for one am glad that the opposition has forced the reexamination.

The concern now is whether or not the DOT will buy some of those extras

that seem so appealing.

It has happened in the past. Around 1990, when our office was at Mapleton

Road and Route 1, the DOT was planning (or presenting its plan) for

the new Scudders Mill Road overpass. What was alarming to me and my

landlord, architect Jerry Ford of Short and Ford, was that the partial

overpass permitted no U-turn for traffic on Route 1 north to get back

to Mapleton Road. The DOT proposed that such traffic exit on Plainsboro

Road, go a half mile or so to a new connector road, go another half

mile or so to Scudders Mill, stop at a red light, and then come back

to Route 1 South via Scudders Mill — a nice little detour.

Jerry Ford and I both spoke out at a public hearing: What about a

little entrance ramp that would allow Route 1 northbound traffic to

get back up onto Scudders Mill right at the overpass? It will never

work, they said. There was simply not enough room.

But when the overpass was done that little ramp was included, and

it’s still working today. If we had to do it again, we would ask for

the ramp — plus a bike path.


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