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
"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
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
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
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