Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the September 29, 2004 issue of U.S.

1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

U.S.1’s Annual Traffic Survey

Some people yearn for the good old days when cars did not clog Route

1. But upon reflection, one wonders how good those olden days really

were. Two centuries ago, they didn’t have the traffic jams that we all

talk about today, but you did have to pay money, relatively big money

for those times, says Bob Yuell, executive director of the Plainsboro

Historical Society, who will lecture on the 200-year history of Route

1 on Saturday, October 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the Plainsboro Municipal

Building. (Call 609-799-9040 for information.)

Yuell recounts how, in 1804, a stock company had issued shares to

raise money for constructing a private toll dirt road. When completed

three years later, it was a two-lane gravel road with at least three

toll gates, and it made a profit. No wonder – the toll was two cents a

mile for a horse and carriage traveling the 25-mile stretch between

Trenton and New Brunswick. Fifty cents, in 1807, was a lot of money.

On May 14, 1903, the road was ceded to the State of New Jersey, and

the road expanded from two lanes to three (the famous death-passing

lane, says Yuell, in which cars from opposing directions shared a

center lane for passing), then to four and to six lanes over the

years.

"During rush hour," says Yuell, "it is a six-lane parking lot." (The

historian, a retired computer specialist for Johnson & Johnson, is

obviously being hyperbolic: Yuell himself has been one of the drivers

who clocked the times for U.S. 1’s annual issue, which shows that

traffic is still moving, and in some years actually moving faster.)

The brave souls who did that task this year were Marie Rendine, T. J.

Lee, William Vandegrift, Barbara Fox, and Richard K. Rein.)

This year our drivers found that two of the biggest bottlenecks are,

no surprise, at Nassau Park and at the Harrison/Washington Road

juggernaut. Joe Fiordaliso, spokesperson for the New Jersey Department

of Transportation, promises that the Nassau Park signal will be

removed by the original commitment date, before Thanksgiving and the

holiday shopping rush.

"We will have the final traffic configuration ready and traffic will

be moving through Route 1/Nassau Park as promised," says Fiordaliso.

"The concrete barriers make the project look as if it as not

progressed as far as it has," he says. "But we have not lost a

significant number of days due to the weather."

The DOT hopes that removing the Nassau Park traffic signal will unplug

the morning rush bottleneck, which is a real safety hazard because of

the back-up on I-295/95 to get onto Route 1 North. Drivers going in

excess of 60 miles-per-hour encounter cars, at a dead stop, lined up

to make their exit. With the Nassau Park light gone, the first traffic

signal that northbound motorists will encounter is at Carnegie

Boulevard.

The $2.4 million project is creating a new frontage road to run

parallel to three lanes of Route 1 North. Similar to the frontage road

along Route 1 near MarketFair, it will allow a free flow of

slower-going traffic from Route 1 into the back entrance of the

shopping center from Quakerbridge Road near Province Line Road.

Southbound Route 1 traffic will still be able to enter the shopping

center by making a right-hand turn, but drivers exiting the shopping

center onto Route 1 will only be able to travel south. Traffic signals

at the current back entrance of the shopping center (on Nassau Park

Boulevard and Quakerbridge Road) are being synchronized with the

traffic signals within the shopping center.

Utility, curb, and deceleration lane changes are being created on

Route 1 North near Quakerbridge Mall to ease the movement of vehicles

in the right lane. Next month the deceleration lane on the exit ramp

from I-95 North to Route 1 is supposed to be lengthened, and the Route

1 and Quakerbridge Road interchange is to be repaved.

Whatever happened to the plans to ease traffic at Washington Road and

Harrison Street with the project named the Millstone Bypass? The DOT

announced its preferred alternative but no start date is in sight and,

in fact, with all the upheaval in state administration there is no

guarantee that the money will be budgeted soon.

Just to refresh all memories: DOT’s preferred alternative – which

could cost between $65 million and $120 million when all is said and

done – calls for Route 1 to be depressed below grade in an underpass

at Washington Road. Also, a new overpass would be constructed near

Harrison Street, and a new road near the Princeton Junction train

station, the Vaughn Drive connector, would link Alexander and

Washington roads.

The approved plan did not include the actual Millstone Bypass,

officially termed the "east-side connector," which would have

re-routed Route 571 traffic off of Washington Road at the railroad

bridge and linked it to the overpass at Harrison Street through the

Sarnoff Corporation’s property. Nevertheless, West Windsor hopes that

the bypass can still be built in conjunction with Sarnoff

Corporation’s development plans.

"We are proceeding with design in conformance with the settlement

agreement and the EIS process," says Fiordaliso, but he also says it

has no estimated time of completion. Commuters can only hope that it

is completed in our time frame, and not that of some future historical

society.


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