The state Department of Transportation will hold an information session about the impending trial closing of jughandles on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street on Wednesday, January 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Princeton Borough Hall. The planned eight-week trial closure is scheduled to begin in March.
DOT officials will make a presentation about the trial and take comments and questions from the public during the meeting, scheduled for Exhibits will also be on display illustrating the project.
The plan 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.
Dynamic and static signage will notify motorists of the restrictions and alternate routes well in advance of the start of the pilot project. Temporary construction barrels and other measures will be used to implement the restrictions in an inexpensive manner.
If the trial is successful, permanent changes will be designed and installed at the intersections. If the trial is unsuccessful, the temporary restrictions will be removed to restore all existing traffic movements.
“We will look to see if this was a success or it created problems that were not tolerable,” said DOT spokesman Joseph Dee. “If it works, then great. If it creates unforeseen problems we’ll revert the traffic patterns to the way they exist now.”
According to the DOT, studies have shown that the turning lanes at the intersections leading into the jughandles are inadequate and result in traffic backing up onto Route 1, affecting the traffic flow on the highway.
DOT officials feel that the new traffic pattern would reduce back-ups at these intersections, which ripple throughout peak drive times and often create congestion along the entire length of Route 1 in Mercer and Middlesex counties. The idea is that the right lanes that now get clogged by drivers trying to make the jughandle turn at Washington or Harrison will instead be open to through traffic.
When the pilot program begins it means drivers heading into Princeton on Route 1 North who do not exit at Alexander Road will drive to Scudder’s Mill Road (approximately two miles north of Harrison Street), where they would loop around, come south, and then turn right onto either Harrison Street or Washington Road.
Drivers on those other roads would still be able to get onto Route 1 going both directions, but northbound drivers on Route 1 would no longer be able to use these intersections as jughandles toward Princeton.
Those plan has generated concern from some officials whose municipalities are most greatly affected by Route 1’s traffic patterns. Some officials fear that closing off jughandles between Alexander Road in West Windsor and Scudder’s Mill Road in Plainsboro would only shift tie-ups from the highway to the crossroads for drivers looking to get to and from Princeton.
West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh says that he, along with mayors from Lawrence, Plainsboro, the Princetons, and South Brunswick have worked with the state to educate officials there about local issues and traffic problems.
“We have to make sure that we have a lot of information to make sure we make the final decision,” Hsueh says. “We wanted to make sure we cover all of the bases. These are local improvements. We want to make sure the timing is right.”