Corrections or additions?
This article by Bill Sanservino was prepared for the September 27,
2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
If the N.J. Department of Transportation (DOT) meets
its goal, Route 1 will be virtually free of traffic lights and long
delays between Bakers Basin/Franklin Corner Road and Ridge Road.
that goal is going to be a challenge, thanks to a cadre of
and politicians who have lined up to oppose the state’s next round
of road projects.
Despite the opposition, improvements already implemented in the last
10 years have helped keep traffic on Route 1 moving. As measured last
week in the annual U.S. 1 traffic survey, driving times along the
highway during peak traffic actually showed a slight improvement over
the previous year. Yet severe bottlenecks continue, and apparently
DOT has become just as impatient with Route 1 delays as the motorists
who sit on the clogged highway every day.
Faced with significant opposition to several projects that would
the flow, DOT has decided to play a different card — the quick-fix
traffic light card. This Tuesday, September 26, DOT began doubling
the "green time" at six Route 1 lights during the morning
rush hour. The new plan is supposed to keep cars moving north, and
so the lines for motorists waiting to access Route 1 from I-95/295
The lights — Nassau Park, Meadow Road, Carnegie Center Boulevard,
Washington Road, Fisher Place, and Harrison Street — had been
on two-minute cycles, offering about 1 1/2 minutes of "green
to north/south traffic and 25 seconds of green to side roads.
Now the north/south traffic is getting twice as much time — 3
1/2 minutes — so more cars going north in the morning will get
through each light. "We are doubling the amount of green for peak
morning rush hour, 6:30 to 9:30 a.m.," says DOT spokesman John
Dourgarian, "but after 9:30 we go back to the two-minute
Of course there is a down side to DOT’s latest quick-fix —
wait times for motorists on side roads such as Washington Road and
Harrison Street. "This change is going to cause some backups in
the morning on the side streets," Dourgarian admits.
That became evident on the first day. One motorist who crosses Route
1 at Washington Road every day reported that a five-minute wait at
the Penns Neck Circle turned into a 20-minute ordeal.
"With anything like this we are between the rock and the hard
place," says Dourgarian. "That is why we are not doing it in the
evening, when more traffic is exiting out on the side streets."
Despite all the state’s efforts, Route 1 is still in need of more
help. Projects the state is currently fighting to build include the
Millstone bypass (which has attracted very weighty opponents), the
proposed Route 92 connection to the New Jersey Turnpike, and the
widening of Route 1 in South Brunswick. All these projects would
DOT’s stated goal: To funnel regional long-distance traffic to Route
1 and keep it flowing.
Opponents of DOT’s plans — those trying to prevent cars from
their municipalities — have mustered environmentalists to their
cause and claim that the DOT is moving much too quickly.
"Route 1 is the economic engine of this region, and really, the
extent to which it functions is the extent to which this region is
seen to be functioning," says Dianne Brake, president of the
Planning Partnership (formerly known as MSM Regional Forum). Her group
supports the construction of regional roadways to keep regional
off local roads.
Brake cites the 1985 DOT Route 1 Corridor Study as a model that sought
unified support from corridor communities. "It was a very
public process that developed a plan for Route 1. The study outlined
a Route 1 with three lanes in both directions, with shoulders, and
as few lights as possible," says Brake.
Because of the changes made to date, the doomsayers in the 1980s —
who predicted delays of several hours for a trip down the Central
Jersey Route 1 corridor — have thus far been proven incorrect.
The Meadow Road overpass — being constructed just
south of MarketFair — is the project closest to fruition and faces
almost no opposition. It is a joint effort between two government
and three commercial entities. The majority of the project is being
built — and funded — by the DOT. West Windsor Township
stockpiled from contributions by commercial developers, will be used
by the state to construct a realignment of Meadow Road through the
planned Palladium office/hotel complex at the northern corner of the
intersection of Route 1 and Meadow Road.
Site work began in August on the $13 million project and crews have
started clearing dirt in anticipation of the Route 1 widening.
Boston Properties’ Carnegie Center is the complex most affected. The
project will limit Route 1 access to the Carnegie Center and shift
the traffic to either Alexander Road or a new road that will connect
the center to Meadow Road. Lights at Meadow Road and Nassau Park
will eventually be removed. "If those two lights are
says Micky Landis, vice president of Boston Properties, "there
will be no lights between Route 295 and Carnegie Center. That helps
both a.m. and p.m. traffic."
Another change will affect only morning traffic — the construction
of a collector-distributor road on Route 1 north with a ramp running
directly into the 500 series of buildings in Carnegie Center. The
final change is the new "connector" road, which will start
near Carnegie 506 and intersect with the realigned Meadow Road. This
will be the major point of entrance and exit from the center, for
both morning and evening, allowing quick access to the overpass and
Route 1, says Landis.
When complete, the Meadow Road overpass will begin at Canal Pointe
Boulevard, continue over Route 1, and end in the center of the
property, an office and hotel complex planned for the acreage now
occupied by the jughandle. The overpass will have a half-cloverleaf
configuration (similar to the Alexander Road overpass) with access
to and from Meadow Road on both sides of the highway. A fourth lane,
the "collector-distributor road," will be constructed on Route
1 North between Meadow and Carnegie Center Boulevard and separated
from the rest of the highway by a median. (This is similar to the
collector road that currently can be found on Route 1 south at the
Quakerbridge Road overpass.)
The overall reconstruction of Meadow Road will be completed in two
phases over the next three years. Phase one — what DOT is doing
— includes the construction of the overpass and widening the
Meadow Road past the Meadow Lane apartment complex. The scheduled
completion date for DOT’s phase is spring, 2002, but it will likely
be finished by December of next year, according to DOT spokesman
Brown. Route 1 will not be closed at any point during the project.
Sometime in 2002, West Windsor will construct phase two of the project
— the realignment of Meadow Road and widening of the roadway to
Clarksville Road. The existing Meadow Road from Bear Brook Road to
the Meadow Lane Apartments will then be closed to through traffic.
Three existing business on Route 1 south will suffer a major impact
from the Meadow Road interchange. The Mobil station with deli at the
corner of Route 1 and Farber Road has been condemned by the state
and will be demolished sometime in 2001, says DOT spokesman John
The business was constructed with the full knowledge of the bypass
plan, and it sits in the middle of the planned acceleration lane.
Two other Farber Road businesses — the Princeton Car Wash and
Sunny Garden Chinese Restaurant — will lose direct access to Route
1. Customers looking to frequent these businesses will have to drive
down Canal Pointe Boulevard to Farber Road.
The Millstone Bypass is the next project targeted by
the N.J. Department of Transportation for construction on the Central
Jersey Route 1 Corridor. The single-worst traffic bottleneck on Route
1 between New Brunswick and Lawrence Township now comes at the troika
of lights at the area known as the Penns Neck Circle — Harrison
Street, Fisher Place and Washington Road. The Millstone Bypass would
remove all three.
The Millstone Bypass would effect a northern realignment of Route
571 complete with a grade-separated interchange over the highway.
The bypass would begin at Route 571 at the railroad bridge near the
Ellsworth’s shopping center in West Windsor, and run through the
Corporation property, paralleling the Millstone River. The road would
then cross Route 1 at a new overpass near Harrison Street and turn
south near the Delaware & Raritan Canal to eventually intersect with
Washington Road near the Princeton border.
According to Dourgarian, the DOT has been working for the last three
years to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) of the project.
That document is expected to be completed by the first week of October
and will be made available on the Internet at
An EA, Dourgarian says, "is a comprehensive document" that
evaluates the road’s effect on the environment, historic areas, and
the population. "It looks at anything related to the impact of
the project on any number of levels."
"The EA evaluates whether there are any significant impacts caused
by the road and, if so, calls for a more comprehensive Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS) to be conducted," says Dourgarian. Through
the EA, the department can make a Finding of No Significant Impact
(FONSI) and move ahead with construction, or determine that an EIS
is necessary. Several sources have told U.S. 1 that they believe DOT
will issue a "mitigated FONSI" — a recommendation to
with the project and mitigate the environmental effects, rather than
to conduct a lengthy EIS, which could take up to 18 months to
Following a 45-day period for comment after the EA is released, DOT
will hold an official hearing for members of the public to comment.
If the EIS is required, the project would suffer a crippling delay.
According to Dourgarian, current plans call for construction to begin
on the highway in late 2003, with a two-year construction timeline.
An EIS would push the project back at least two years.
Following the public hearing on the EA, the DOT will ship the document
off to the Federal Highway Administration, which will make the
Even if the DOT recommends going ahead with the project without an
EIS, the federal government can still demand that a full blown EIS
Currently, says Dourgarian, there are no other viable alternatives
to be considered if the bypass is not constructed. The lights that
are there now would remain, and — as housing and commercial
continues — the bottlenecks would get worse.
That would undoubtedly put a major snag in the state’s vision of a
Route 1 unencumbered by delays caused by signalized intersections.
Some $200 million in federal, state and private funds have been spent
so far to keep traffic moving on Route 1 between New Brunswick and
Lawrenceville. These projects include the elimination of the traffic
lights at Bakers Basin and Plainsboro Road, and the overpasses at
Quakerbridge Road, College Road, Scudders Mill Road, Alexander Road,
and Meadow Road.
"Route 1 is seen as a very important highway corridor where
conditions still continue to occur during rush hour situations. We’ve
made Route 1 a focus for widening and removal of certain traffic
If we had not done this work, Route 1 would be a parking lot
Even though these improvements have been significant, their effect
cannot be directly measured due to the constant influx of cars from
new commercial and residential construction. "Clearly these
have helped — they haven’t solved the problem, but they do help
the efficiency of a road and how it operates," says Dourgarian.
Some 20 years ago, when the Millstone Bypass was placed on the
rolls at the behest of West Windsor Township, DOT deemed the project
a low priority until other projects were completed. As Route 1
projects have continued at a pace of one every three or four years,
the Millstone Bypass has risen to the top of the list.
In recent years, the $58.5 million, three-mile project has been the
subject of heated debate and is now a thorn in relations between
Borough and Township and West Windsor Township. West Windsor, which
is the geographical location for the entire bypass, wants the road
to relieve residential streets that have been invaded by high traffic
volumes. Princeton officials claim the bypass will pump additional
traffic into the hearts of their communities.
The Princetons’ argument, DOT’s Dourgarian says, holds no water.
has been lost in all of this is that we have worked with the community
there for 20 years to develop this plan. Traffic studies have found
that project will not increase traffic going into Princeton."
Studied do show that Princeton traffic volume will increase, he says,
but not as a result of the Millstone Bypass.
Dourgarian says that there is no plan of attack by DOT to counter
the projects’ opponents. "We are committed to an open process.
With road projects, there is no such thing as unanimous support. All
we can do is allow the process to go forward, allow for public
and release factual information."
Several non-political heavy-hitters — Princeton University, the
Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission, N.J. Sierra Club, and the Stony
Brook Millstone Watershed Association — have taken sides on the
The environmental groups fear the effects of the road on nearby
— the Delaware & Raritan Canal, Lake Carnegie, and the Millstone
River. Environmentalists are also concerned the road would affect
the "Elm Allee" — a row of stately elms that lines both
sides of Washington Road west of Route 1 and on the West Windsor
of university property. One of DOT’s recent plans called for
Road to be closed, which would result in the loss of what many
consider to be the traditional scenic entrance to their community.
The most recent alignment of the highway addressed that concern, with
DOT allowing limited right turn in/right turn out access to Washington
Road. Only a few elms would be destroyed by the bypass’s construction.
The Watershed Association, nevertheless, is lobbying for a lengthy
EIS of the planned bypass route. "Our fundamental purpose is to
speak for the water quality and habitats of our region’s rivers and
streams," says David Kinsey, vice chair of the Watershed
Board of Trustees.
"We question the alignment next to two of the finest natural
in central Jersey — the Canal Park and the unfragmented wetlands
and habitat on the Millstone River," says George Hawkins, the
association’s executive director. "There may be feasible
alignments that preserve these natural jewels. We plan to review any
environmental assessment and call for a full explanation of the
of alternative alignments."
Proponents are just as ardent, if not more so, than
those opposing the project. The Millstone Bypass historically has
been one of the few issues in West Windsor that has had the unanimous
support of the township’s quarrelsome political factions. The township
believes its opinion should bear extra weight because the project
is located solely in West Windsor. Major landowners affected by the
bypass — the Sarnoff Corporation and Princeton University —
also fully support its construction.
According to West Windsor Mayor Carole Carson, environmental issues
are inevitable "when you build in a state as congested in New
Jersey." This case is different, she added, because the property
on which the bypass will be constructed is privately owned by Sarnoff
and the university.
"We’re not talking about building on open space or park land
says the mayor. "Those properties are available for development
and zoned for development. Eventually something is going to be built
there. The argument that this is pristine land is invalid. If someone
wants to buy land from David Sarnoff and Princeton University then
they can preserve those properties themselves and make them pristine
Probably the biggest proponent of the road is Rae Roeder, West Windsor
councilwoman, who fought for decades to get the bypass on state and
county engineering maps. Roeder feels the Elm Allee is being used
as a pawn by bypass opponents to delay or stop the project. "The
people in the Princetons argue they want to continue to route traffic
onto the tree-lined road known as the Elms Allee. When has traffic
ever been a good thing? How can trees survive constant exhaust fumes?
The trees would be better off they are bypassed. What you have here
is a red-herring argument being used as an excuse to stop the
Route 92, the grand daddy of all New Jersey road
when it comes to debate over alignment and the environment, has been
sitting on planning books for more than 60 years. The proposed highway
is an east-west connector to be constructed by the New Jersey Turnpike
Authority — if indeed it ever is constructed.
After 60 years, the only section of the highway that has been built
is the Hightstown Bypass. Seen as a necessary element to preserve
quality of life in Hightstown, the bypass was ultimately
from Route 92 and completed last year while the debate over the
of the project continued to rage.
A $310 million 6.7-mile limited-access toll road is supposed to run
from Turnpike Exit 8A in Monroe Township to Route 1 in South Brunswick
near Ridge Road. But now it is mired in a federally mandated
evaluation to decide whether concern over 14 acres of wetlands and
environmentally sensitive land should trigger a re-design that would
send traffic pouring onto Plainsboro’s streets.
Those in favor of the current design claimed a recent victory when
an independent consulting firm, hired by the Delaware Valley Regional
Planning Commission (DVRPC), determined that the highway would provide
substantial traffic relief. The "Central Jersey Transportation
Forum East-West Analysis," conducted by Pennsylvania-based URS,
was presented to the DVRPC’s Central Jersey Transportation Forum on
According to this report, Route 92 would remove some 5,000 vehicles
daily from Dey Road in Plainsboro east of Scudders Mill Road; remove
4,700 cars daily from Plainsboro Road east of Scudders Mill Road;
and remove 11,000 vehicles per day from Route 522 between Ridge Road
and Kingston Place.
Among the opponents of the current plan is Robert Margadonna, founder
of the Friends of the Plainsboro Preserve, who argues that it would
affect a small northern portion of the nature park. The Friends call
the project "an environmentally destructive highway . . . slicing
though the northern third of the Plainsboro Preserve, destroying 14
acres of what the EPA has classified as exceptional wetlands."
Another formidable opponent is the federal Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), which denied wetlands permits in 1998, even though the
state DEP had approved them. The EPA then recommended an alternative
that would route traffic down Dey and Scudders Mill roads through
the center of one of Plainsboro Township’s most densely populated
residential areas. Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu has said the effect
on the community by the EPA proposal would be "devastating."
After last year’s EPA decision, the project was sent to the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers for environmental permit approval. Last February,
the Corps announced that it could not use any of the previously
environmental studies and would have to commission an in-depth EIS
of its own.
"The Corps of Engineers has determined that the decision-making
process for the Route 92 project is a major Federal action with
significant environmental impacts," says Joseph J. Seebode, chief
of the Army Corps Regulatory Branch. The duration of that study is
expected to be between 12 and 18 months.
Once again, the success of controversial projects hinge on
studies. The Millstone Bypass awaits its state environmental study
— and that could be turn into a long federal one. Route 92 has
already passed its state test, but a federal study was mandated
Whether you are pleased with the environmentally-based decisions
on where you live and where you drive. Like rush hour traffic itself,
road controversies seem inevitable.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.