West Windsor Council met with Mercer County officials at its June 26 meeting to address concerns resulting from two upcoming road projects that will have a major impact on traffic circulation through Princeton Junction.
Starting next month, the county will begin work to replace the bridge on Cranbury Road over Bear Brook in Grovers Mill. Also set for this year are configuration changes to the intersection of Route 571 and Clarksville Road.
In attendance to talk about the projects were several county engineers, including Gregory Sandusky, George Fallot and Jeffrey Lamoreaux.
“We’re concerned for our constituents’ convenience, and we want to know why they are rebuilding, and we wanted them to talk to us,” said Council Vice President Alison Miller regarding the $4 million project, which will close the bridge for nine months.
During construction, traffic will be detoured to Clarksville and Rabbit Hill roads.
Councilman Hemant Marathe expressed discontent at the amount of time the work will take.
“I’m concerned as to why it is taking so many days to fix that bridge,” he said. “It’s a very important artery in West Windsor, and it’s going to inconvenience a lot of people. I hope the county will work as fast as they can, and finish the bridge much sooner than what they are stating. I have not yet received a satisfactory answer as to why it’s going to take that long,” he said.
Sandusky said the work needs to be done because the bridge is obsolete. It has a functionality rating of 48.2 out of a 100, which is lower than the minimum standard of 50.
The county engineers said the project has already been sent out to bid, and work will begin in August regardless of the council’s views.
The bridge replacement is part of a larger county-wide movement to improve infrastructure and assure that the 689 bridges in the county are safe for travel, through checkups once every two years. Since 2006, 70 bridges in Mercer County have been improved or rebuilt.
In terms of design, the new bridge will have a wider curb-to-curb length and sidewalks on both sides. Miller said that although there are currently no sidewalks on either side of the road leading up to the bridge, she sees this as a first step to a larger goal.
“This gives West Windsor maximum flexibility in putting sidewalks on Cranbury Road,” she said. “It’s an important multi-phase project, and the county is being helpful by putting sidewalks on both sides so that our project can fit in.”
In March, the township approved construction of the first phase of sidewalk construction on Cranbury Road from Route 571 to Sunnydale Way. The eventual plan is for sidewalks to be built along the road all the way to the Plainsboro border at the bridge over the Millstone River.
Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said he was happy with the Cranbury Neck Bridge reconstruction in the larger sense of improving West Windsor’s infrastructure.
“I think that is something that has to be done, and this is something that I’m also very proud of,” he said. “In my 16 years of work with the state and the county, I’ve been making sure that the infrastructure in West Windsor will be brought up to date. This is something I’ve wanted to do.”
Because the bridge closure detours will impact both Route 571 and Clarksville Road, the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of the two roads is a major concern.
Under the plan, the county is going to convert one of the west-bound lanes on Route 571 to a left-turn-only lane (from Route 571 towards High School South).
The plan also calls for the addition of left turn green arrows on the traffic signal in all four directions at the intersection, and an all-pedestrian phase for safety while crossing the road.
The plan involves no widening or other structural changes to the road. The county intends to install a sign on Route 571 at North Mill Road that will notify motorists of the upcoming left-turn-only lane.
The traffic signal at Route 571 and Clarksville Road will feature an ‘all pedestrian phase’ to help increase safety at the intersection.
Sandusky said that the county, based on data they had collected, is predicting that time spent at the intersection during the morning peak hours will decrease from 160 to 143 seconds, and 88 to 63 seconds during the evening peak hours.
He said that during the Cranbury Road bridge closure, the waiting time at the intersection is estimated to go from 271 to 250 seconds in the morning and from 290 to 116 seconds in the evening as a result of the changes made to the intersection.
The most important change, he said, will be the all-pedestrian phase—a button on the traffic light stanchions on all four sides of the intersection that would stop all traffic and allow pedestrians to cross safely.
Miller said she was “very pleased by the county’s decision to have an all-pedestrian phase at 571 and Clarksville. If they can add a right turn arrow, so that they can have no right on red with the pedestrian phase is activated, I think you will have a truly impressive increase in safety. Pedestrians at that intersection are high school students, and their safety is very important.”
Marathe, however, expressed concerns about the changes at the intersection and said that the county was making assumptions about how the traffic will change once the Cranbury Road is closed. “My personal thinking is that their assumptions may not be exactly accurate, so I am very much concerned about the proper changes on Route 571,” he said.
Councilwoman Ayesha Hamilton said she shared Marathe’s concern regarding the actual change in traffic and is worried that some of the traffic might spill onto nearby Hendrickson Drive.
“We’ve heard some mixed signals on where the traffic from the Cranbury Bridge closure will actually go, and I’ve spoken with people that don’t necessarily think it’s all going to flow out onto Clarksville and 571,” Hamilton said.
She said that she understands the overall need for changes, though. “Mercer County was absolutely willing to listen to our concerns. The (engineers) went back and made changes regarding the intersection.”
Hamilton added that the inclusion of the all-pedestrian phase shows that the county “is considering our needs and making adjustments whenever possible.”
During public comment, Akhila Madhavan, of 98 Princeton-Hightstown Rd., focused on the need for safety.
“I walk my dog every morning and evening. Every day. And every day, the cars are a risk,” Madhavan said.