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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.
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
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
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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