Corrections or additions?
This article was prepared for the September 25, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Traffic Survey: Thank Heavens For Overpasses
No matter how we improve traffic flow, the number of
cars on the road will inexorably increase. Taking just the area from
the Forrestal Center to the Carnegie Center, employment is supposed
to nearly double, going from 46,000 to 86,500 by 2028.
Yet more traffic does not necessarily mean more congestion, as U.S.
1 Newspaper’s Route 1 traffic surveys have shown, because driving
times decrease when major improvements are made. For instance, when
drivers were allowed to use the shoulder lane during the morning and
afternoon rush hours, driving times dropped.
But of all the congestion-reducing measures that have been tried,
the overpasses are clear winners, largely because they eliminate red
lights on Route 1. This year U.S. 1’s drivers saw a demonstrable decrease
due to the new Meadow Road overpass (see chart, page 43).
Not every improvement to Route 1 helps the overall traffic situation.
Two years ago the DOT made the green lights longer on Route 1, and
this initially precipitated a huge logjam on the crossroads, especially
at Washington Road and Harrison Street. (Adjustments were soon made
and these eased the back-ups at the intersections.) Crossroads without
an overpass, as the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) points out, are
tough to improve. These old, old roads are being asked to do big league
As a result many Route 1 drivers are lobbying for the proposed overpass
for Harrison Street and Washington Road that the Millstone Bypass
would bring (see page 12). One useful idea from the Partners Roundtable
is to have Vaughn Drive continue through the train station across
the Dinky tracks and, expanded to a "real" road, go all the
way to the proposed bypass.
Other proposed improvements for commuters are longer
term and far more expensive. One is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), now being
taken seriously by planners and traffic experts. It is being studied
by the Central Jersey Transportation Forum — a group created by
the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to work with New
Jersey Transit to reduce traffic congestion. In June when the Sarnoff
Corporation was granted approval for a 3 million square-foot office
complex, the West Windsor planning board required that BRT be an integral
part of its plan.
BRT makes use of sleek high-tech vehicles resembling a hybrid bus/train
that can travel on specially-designed "guideways" as well
as regular roads. A BRT vehicle would be able to carry passengers
over a dedicated right-of-way, such as an old railroad line, and then
wheel through city centers and neighborhoods picking up riders. As
BRT is envisioned, intersections would be realigned with dedicated
bus lanes, and a BRT driver could signal the traffic light from a
short distance away and trigger a green light to let the commuters
through ahead of the cars.
BRT systems are already operating successfully worldwide and in 14
cities in the United States including Boston, Cleveland, Detroit,
Hartford, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles.
As proposed, this BRT line would have a guideway on a strip between
Route 1 and the Amtrak mainline from Lawrence to South Brunswick townships.
Stops include Quakerbridge Mall, a complex built on the Wyeth (formerly
American Cyanamid) property, Carnegie Center, the Princeton Junction
train station, Sarnoff’s office complex, the Merrill Lynch and Squibb
complexes on Scudders Mill Road, Forrestal Center, and Ridge Road.
The plan also includes a line that runs into downtown Princeton utilizing
the existing Dinky Railroad or a bus that would run along the same
route. The advantage of the bus over the train would be that in the
20 minutes the train sits idly at the station, the bus could be moving
through town, picking up passengers.
The service would be supplemented by "feeder routes" —
bus lines throughout Mercer and lower Middlesex counties that tie
into the main BRT line. This would make the Princeton Junction train
station a major transportation hub — with cars, trains, and buses
all coming together in one place.
A New Jersey Transit study, showing that the proposed BRT line would
be economically feasible, estimates that it would carry 760 peak-hour
riders, well in excess of the 600 riders set at the beginning of the
study as the minimum for the proposal to merit additional research.
The line has the potential for 21,000 daily trips on the service,
with feeder lines generating some 6,000 daily trips.
BRT can be constructed incrementally, and the first phase could be
implemented as early as 2007. The next step is for NJ Transit and
the TMA to conduct a detailed in-depth study, including environmental
impacts, and detailed engineering.
Could BRT be the ultimate answer to the Millstone Bypass controversy,
an innovative system that would eliminate the need for such a bypass?
No way, most of the experts agree. It would be at least five years
before the first phase of a BRT could be installed, and at maximum
usage BRT would reduce actual traffic by only 5 to 8 percent. The
Penns Neck Area EIS concluded that even under the most favorable circumstances
a BRT system "would not significantly improve traffic congestion
in the Penns Neck area."
"All of the projections for traffic on Route 1 show that it’s
not going to get better," says Sandra Brillhart of the Greater
Mercer TMA, "And there’s no one silver bullet answer."
Corrections or additions?
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