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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the September 25, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Plotting the Millstone Bypass

A plan to alleviate traffic jams on Route 1 — and

on roads that feed into Route 1 — in the Penns Neck area of West

Windsor is closer to reality. The Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute

of Rutgers University, operating at the request of the New Jersey

Department of Transportation, has published a newsletter providing

detailed information on alternatives arrived at during the course

of nearly 18 months of meetings. A final recommendation is to be made

in April, 2003.

In these meetings, 32 members of a Partners Roundtable, representing

sometimes conflicting community, historic preservation, environmental,

corporate, retail, and government constituencies, have come up with

18 road-based alternatives for the five-mile radius around the Route

1 and Washington Road intersection in the Penns Neck section of West

Windsor. These 18 alternatives have been bundled into seven groups

based on similar characteristics.

Diagrams of these alternatives are the centerpiece of a day-long in-progress

review on Monday, September 30 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the New

Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center on Alexander Road. Presentations,

providing more detail, take place at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. A videotape

of the 11 a.m. presentation is available for viewing throughout the

day.

The roundtable approach was initiated by then governor Christie Whitman,

after the DOT’s initial preferred alignment for the bypass was decried

by opponents as an environmentally-harmful fait-accompli presented

with little community input. Along with the Partners Roundtable comes

a required full-scale environmental impact study.

"Our assignment is proving to be challenging as anticipated,"

says Martin E. Robins, director of the Voorhees Institute. "But

it is also demonstrating the enormous potential of planning in a public

context that embraces diversity and encourages discussion."

In addition to the seven build alternatives, the Penns Neck Area Environmental

Impact Statement (Penns Neck EIS) includes a "no-build" alternative,

as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. This baseline

scenario will serve as the benchmark against which all of the build

alternatives will be compared. No-build considers only routine maintenance

and currently planned improvements to roadways in the primary (five-mile

radius) and secondary (20-mile radius) study areas that are likely

to be built by 2028 as based on local and regional capital improvement

plans.

Demographic and development data upon which the Penns

Neck EIS is relying forecast a 13 percent population growth in the

primary area along with a 68 percent employment growth. Employment

in Plainsboro Township is expected to increase 50 percent — from

27,000 in 2001 to 40,500 in 2028 — and employment in West Windsor

Township is expected to grow from 19,000 to 44,000 in the same period,

resulting in "a substantial increase in travel demand."

The seven alternatives on the table to deal with these demands are

as follows:

A. Bury Route 1. As with other alternatives, the

A alternatives have variations. All A alternatives, however, place

Route 1 in a cut, and most provide frontage roads. All provide a new

grade-separated interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street, and

an east-side connector road at the northern edge of the Sarnoff property

along the Millstone River, and a Harrison Street connector road west

of Route 1 between the D & R Canal and Route 1.

All A alternatives provide direct access to and from Route 1 through

either loop or diamond interchanges in the vicinity of Harrison Street.

One A alternative removes all access between Washington Road and Route

1 and provides no frontage roads.

Other A alternatives provide direct access to Route 1 southbound;

access from Route 1 northbound and southbound and to Route 1 northbound

is provided via frontage road connections to the Harrison Street interchange.

And one A alternative provides direct access to Route 1 northbound

and to Route 1 southbound via frontage road connections at the Harrison

Street interchange.

The A alternatives, like many other plans, bring Vaughn Drive into

the equation, extending that road north from its current terminus

in the Princeton Junction train station parking lot to Washington

Road in the vicinity of the Amtrak bridge in Princeton Junction.

B. Back to the Millstone Bypass. The B alternatives are

similar to the former preferred alignment for the Millstone Bypass.

Route 1 remains at grade and the traffic signals at Washington Road,

Fisher Place, and Harrison Street are removed and replaced with a

grade-separated loop interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street.

East-west access across Route 1 at Washington Road is eliminated.

Unlike the A alternatives, the B alternatives do not include

frontage roads between Harrison Street and Washington Road. Instead

B and B 1. connect Harrison Street at Washington Road with a west-side

connector road across Princeton University property, in the vicinity

of the D & R Canal. In B 2., a similar connector road between Harrison

Street and Washington Road is aligned further to the east and extends

south to Alexander Road. All B alternatives include an east-side connector

road, but do not include an extension of Vaughn Road.

C. A scaled down Millstone Bypass. Similar to alternative

B, C alternatives provide an at-grade Route 1 and remove the traffic

signals at Washington Road, Fisher Place, and Harrison Street. The

C alternatives include a diamond interchange in the vicinity of Harrison

Street and a 2-way frontage road running parallel to Route 1 on the

west side, between Washington Road and Harrison Street.

One C alternative provides a west-east connector road between Alexander

and Washington Roads, while another does not. The C alternative does

not include the east-west connector road, through Sarnoff property,

that is a main feature of the original Millstone Bypass configuration,

and which is a prominent feature in B alternatives.

C alternatives do make use of a Vaughn Drive extension.

D. The hybrid. D alternatives bury a portion of Route

1 at Washington Road, provide frontage roads between Washington Road

and a new Harrison Street interchange, and make use of an east-side

connector road through Sarnoff property. The configuration envisioned

in D plans puts the east-side connector farther to the south, and

farther away from the Millstone River than does the original Millstone

River Bypass. D also puts a connector road from Route 1 to Harrison

Street.

One D plan buries Route 1 only at Washington Road, while another extends

the length of the cut from Varsity Drive to Fisher Place and provides

connections over Route 1 at all three roads.

A Vaughn Drive extension is included in D alternatives.

E. Another hybrid. E alternatives also bury a portion

of Route 1, cut east-to-west across Sarnoff property, include a Harrison

Street connector, and make use of a Vaughn Drive extension. A distinctive

feature of E alternatives is that they put the east-west connector

road on the southern edge of Sarnoff property.

F. No throughput to Harrison Street. Like other plans,

F alternatives include a Route 1 cut, a grade-separated loop interchange

in the vicinity of Harrison Street, an east-side connector road, and

a Harrison Street connector road. The big difference is that F alternatives

prohibit through access from the east-side connector road to the west-side

Harrison Street connector road. The elimination of through access

at Harrison Street was designed to maintain an equal distribution

of east-west traffic into and out of the Princeton.

In F alternatives, Route 1 traffic accessing Princeton would use the

Harrison Street interchange, while east-west traffic would use Washington

Road.

G. The minimally-invasive plan. The G alternatives involve

working with lane changes and traffic signals to tame Route 1 traffic.

Alternative G calls for turning lane modifications on all Route and

Harrison Street and Route 1 and Washington Road approaches, including

center turn lanes on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street.

The traffic signal at Fisher Place is removed and Fisher Place becomes

a right-in/right-out intersection.

Alternative G-1 is similar to G, but replaces center left-turn lanes

with jug handles at Washington Road and Harrison Street. The signal

at Fisher Place is removed and Fisher Place becomes a right-in, right-out

intersection.

Alternative G-2 eliminates traffic signals on Route 1 at Harrison

Street, Washington Road, and Fisher Place. Each crossing becomes a

right-in, right-out intersection. This option eliminates east-west

access across Route 1.

The Voorhees Policy Institute, in its latest newsletter, states

that the Penns Neck area study is entering the critical phase of developing

the draft EIS. The project team is now conducting traffic, environmental,

and other technical studies to gauge the impacts of each of the above

alternatives. Each category of analysis will identify and quantify

the impacts for each alternative and compare it to the no-build alternative.

Goals and objectives include protecting and enhancing the integrity

of residential neighborhoods; improving access, mobility, and safety

for all modes of transportation, and reducing congestion; protecting

and enhancing the environment, including natural resources and open

space; protecting and enhancing historic and archaeological resources;

maintaining the viability of institutional and business communities;

and recognizing the interrelationships between land use and transportation.

The Penns Neck Area EIS team is operating under a timetable that states

another in-progress review will be made public in November, and a

draft EIS in December. A public hearing is scheduled for January.

Public input is to take place through February, and a final decision

is due in April.


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