The state Department of Transportation has delayed a trial program that will close jughandles on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street.
The closure, originally slated to begin in mid-March, has been deferred until August 1 so the state can 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.
“After meeting with Princeton business leaders, including David Newton, vice president of Palmer Square Management, and Jack Morrison, president of JM Group, where they discussed concerns about the potential impact of the pilot during a traditionally robust period for business, I believe that it is in the best interest of the community to move the pilot program,” said DOT Commissioner James Simpson. “The concerns and suggestions of residents who raised logistical and other issues” at the two public meetings in January “also contributed significantly to this decision.”
DOT officials say that deferring the closure will also allow motorists to develop new traffic patterns after the opening of the new Princeton Medical Center on May 22. The new hospital is located on Route 1 north of the Harrison Street intersection.
Plainsboro Mayor Cantu talked about the closure at the January 24 meeting in West Windsor. “We want to understand how the DOT will deal with our concerns over safety and emergency services during rush hour periods, and the access they would have.”
Cantu says in conversations with other area mayors, there is a consensus that this experiment needs to involve “a clear understanding of the criteria for judging success or failure, as well as to understand how the DOT will deal with problems that can arise with the changes during the experimental period.”
He has also said the town fears that the closing could worsen the already bad traffic tie-ups at Scudders Mill Road and Route 1.
West Windsor Councilman George Borek, who also attended the January 24 meeting, told township council on January 30 that the program will cause problems. “One of my questions is, if you solve the traffic problem on Route 1 are you creating another problem for West Windsor? My opinion is yes.”
Borek — a fireman — said he has met with township police, fire, and emergency services officials. They brought up major concerns about the plan’s impact on response times and the dangers of a delayed response in case of a fire. He specified Lower Harrison Street as a potential problem.
The pilot — scheduled to last for 12 weeks — calls for the temporary restriction of left turns and U-turns at Washington Road to both northbound and southbound 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.