DOT clarifies Rt. 1 work estimate, Trenton Times, August 23, 2006
DOT won't speed up Route 1 improvements for hospital's move Princeton Packet, August 22, 2006
Debate over former bypass spans 2 decades
Princeton Packet chronology, January 30, 2004 (pdf)
Princeton Packet, January 30, 2004, article online
Princeton Packet, January 30, 2004, editorial online
Penns Neck plan could displace some Rt. 1 businesses Princeton Packet, February 10, 2004
Bald eagle nest spotted near Lake Carnegie Princeton Packet, February 10, 2004
Public interest served by process Letter in Princeton Packet, February 10, 2004
DOT set to release bypass alternative, Princeton Packet, January 23, 2004
Sierra Club e-mailers swamp bypass study, Princeton Packet, July 29, 2003
Process yields worthy model for state DOT , Princeton Packet, July 4, 2003
Officials split over east-side connector road , Princeton Packet, July 4, 2003
Bypass options narrowing down, Princeton Packet, July 1, 2003
Penns Neck Area bypass proposal gains support, Trenton Times, July 1, 2003
Officials divide on bypass Princeton Packet, June 27, 2003
Planning Board Evaluates Options for Penn's Neck, Town Topics, June 25, 2003
Environmental study released to West Windsor residents, Trenton Times, June10, 2003
Bypass draft review released to public, Princeton Packet, June 3, 2003
Bypass proposal on track Princeton Packet, May 6, 2003
Now we've bypassed the rancor, Princeton Packet, April 15, 2003
Millstone Bypass report expected by April, Princeton Packet, March 7, 2003
Army Corps of Engineers to release environmental study for Route 92, The Star Ledger, February 20, 2003
WW planners decline to back bypass options, Princeton Packet, February 7, 2003
Demise of a Michigan Bypass, January 30, 2003
West Windsor mulling three bypass options Princeton Packet, January 21, 2003
Route 1 bypass options studied Trenton Times, January 2, 2003
Millstone Bypass impact study delayed four months Princeton Packet, December 13, 2002
Environment panel joins effort to slow bypass review, Princeton Packet, October 18, 2002
Participation is not the same as attendance, Princeton Packet, October 22, 2002: Response to Princeton Packet article October 18, 2002
Princeton wants bypass that distributes traffic evenly, Princeton Packet, October 11, 2002
Penns Neck EIS: Route 1 in a Tunnel? West Windsor & Plainsboro News, October 4, 2002
Eighteen bypass alternatives are unveiled to public, Princeton Packet, October 2, 2002
Penns Neck bypass plans to get public review , Princeton Packet, September 27, 2002
Plotting the Millstone Bypass, US 1, September 25, 2002
Planners' OK clears way for land deal, Princeton Packet, August 23, 2002
Sierra Club: State still on the road to sprawl, Trenton Times, July 31, 2002
Sierra Club Highlights Sprawl Ways, NJ Sierra Club Press Release, July 30, 2002
Important Clarification: The Role of the E.I.S. Roundtable
This Road Show Hits All the Potholes, The New York Times, June 23, 2002
Eden founder out in the cold, Trenton Times, January 29, 2002
Millstone bypass to connect primarily to Washington Road, Daily Princetonian, January 21, 2002
Traffic group shuffles members, Trenton Times, January 18, 2002
EIS Resignation, West Windsor & Plainsboro News, January 18, 2002
Tilghman takes stand on Millstone development, Daily Princetonian, January 16, 2002
Millstone Bypass panel moderator resigns, Princeton Packet, January 11, 2002
Ease impact, but recognize traffic reality, Princeton Packet, December 11, 2001
Group: Delay traffic meeting, Trenton Times, November 20, 2001
Millstone Bypass panel charged with bypassing options, Princeton Packet, November 16, 2001
For Route 1 Traffic, Some Progress, Lots of Process US 1, September 26, 2001
Bypass Articles before July 1, 2001
DOT clarifies Rt. 1 work estimate
$400M includes S. Brunswick construction
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
BY ROBERT STERN
TRENTON -- One day after its commissioner revealed that a planned overhaul for a stretch of Route 1 will have an estimated $400 million price tag, the state Department of Transportation clarified that the figure would pay for much more than improvements included as part of the proposed Penns Neck Area Bypass in West Windsor.
In fact, the majority of that estimated cost -- about $270 million -- would pay for improving traffic flow along an 8.5-mile portion of Route 1 in South Brunswick, DOT spokeswoman Erin Phallon said yesterday.
The work the DOT is considering for the South Brunswick segment might include widening the four-lane section of the highway to six lanes and creating grade-separated interchanges to replace five intersections, Phallon said.
The DOT's estimated cost for Route 1 alterations in the northern West Windsor area is $130 million, she said.
The $130 million includes about $55 million to realign Harrison Street slightly to the south of its current Route 1 intersection, which would end in a cul-de-sac, and to build an overpass interchange for Harrison across Route 1.
She said the rest of the estimated $130 million needed for the West Windsor-area portion of the Route 1 work would pay for dropping the main highway below grade so it passes under Washington Road and building two frontage roads for local traffic -- changes that would eliminate traffic lights and intersections for Route 1's through-lanes at Washington Road and Fisher Place. Also included in the $130 million figure is almost $14 million for replacement of the Route 1 bridge across the Millstone River in southern Plainsboro.
The portion of the Route 1 improvements outside South Brunswick have been the major elements of the long-discussed Penns Neck Area Bypass, along with a plan to extend Vaughn Drive north from its terminus at the Princeton Junction train station to Washington Road, also known as Route 571.
Phallon said the Vaughn Drive component of the project is estimated to cost $30 million, although that figure is in addition to the $130 million estimated for the Penns Neck Area work on and across Route 1.
All the estimates include total cost projections, not just construction, Phallon said.
On Monday, DOT Commissioner Kris Kolluri had said the cost for suppressing Route 1 is estimated at about $400 million. He also said the estimated price to build a Harrison Street overpass is $100 million "at the very least."
But Phallon said yesterday that the $400 million figure includes the potential South Brunswick work and that the price for the overpass at Harrison Street includes the related Route 1 work planned for the Washington Road-Harrison Street area.
Contingent on federal funding, construction could start on the Millstone River bridge in Plainsboro as early as 2009, along Route 1 in northern West Windsor as early as 2010, and for Vaughn Drive as early as 2011, Phallon said.
The South Brunswick component is still being planned and at least five years from the start of construction, she said.
Contact Robert Stern at firstname.lastname@example.org or (609) 989-5731.
© 2006 The Times of Trenton
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DOT won't speed up Route 1 improvements for hospital's move
By: Hilary Parker, Staff Writer
Local officials want better access for Harrison Street traffic
In a meeting held Monday afternoon, New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri made it clear that paving the way to an improved Harrison Street-Route 1 intersection prior to the proposed relocation of Princeton HealthCare System to Plainsboro may not be as easy as many had hoped it might be.
Arranged by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Borough) in response to concerns raised by Princeton Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman and Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, Monday's meeting brought together a number of Princeton, West Windsor and Plainsboro officials to express their concerns about the traffic implications of the hospital's proposed move.
PHCS officials are "optimistic" they will receive their certificate of need from the state and finalize zoning changes in Princeton and Plainsboro in order to break ground at the proposed Plainsboro location in 2007, PHCS Vice President for Government and Community Affairs Pam Hersh told meeting attendees.
On that "aggressive time scale," the new hospital proposed for the FMC Corp. site at Route 1 and Plainsboro Road would be "up and running" by mid-2010, she said.
While 70 percent of the hospital's patients hail from east of Route 1, Ms. Hersh shared the concern expressed by Mayors Trotman and Marchand over access to the hospital for patients traveling from the Princeton area, particularly with regard to the Harrison Street intersection with Route 1.
Citing recent talks with DOT officials regarding imminent repairs of the Route 1 Millstone River bridge, Ms. Hersh raised the possibility of improving the Harrison Street intersection with the addition of a left-turn lane at the same time as the scheduled bridge work.
Mayor Trotman and West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh echoed Ms. Hersh's sentiments, stressing the need for improvements to the intersection in advance of the DOT's Route 1-Penns Neck Area Improvements project, still in the planning stages.
The current incarnation of the Penns Neck project would eliminate the often-bottlenecked Harrison Street intersection, along with the intersections at Washington Road and Fisher Place. The project would ultimately reroute Harrison Street over Route 1 and establish a network of feeder roads to access Route 1.
Mayor Hsueh stressed the importance of raising the priority of the Harrison Street overpass portion of the Penns Neck project given the hospital's relocation.
"We don't make funding decisions in a vacuum," said Commissioner Kolluri in response to the requests to hasten one portion of the Penns Neck project given the hospital's impending move.
Projects that are part of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program cannot be piecemealed together, he said, but must be decided by the appropriate Metropolitan Planning Organization. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which includes Mercer County, oversees the decision-making for the Penns Neck project.
At the same time, he said, Gov. Jon Corzine's message was "very clear" when he designated $1.6 billion for the state Transportation Trust Fund each year for the next five years. Given that any temporary improvements to the Harrison Street intersection would be replaced in just a few years by the larger Penns Neck project, Commissioner Kolluri said it would not be prudent to spend money now on a fix that would soon be obsolete. The larger project is scheduled for completion by 2012, he said.
The overpass portion of the project alone will cost at least $100 million, he said, with the price tag for the entire Penns Neck road improvement totaling nearly half a billion dollars.
As Harrison Street is a Mercer County road, the commissioner had previously spoken with County Executive Brian Hughes about potential county improvements to the roadway. At Monday's meeting, county officials said they are in the process of collecting data about the Harrison Street intersection. Since the road is bounded on one side by the Millstone River and on another by a Sunoco gas station, they said it may be difficult to provide the needed road widths to accommodate a left-turn lane.
County officials also noted that with "limited funding" of $2.4 million annually, any county project to improve the intersection would necessitate collaboration with other funding sources. Regardless, the county will continue to research the possibility of adding a left-turn lane and improving signaling at the intersection, and will make stakeholders aware of their findings, the officials said.
"I think it went well under the circumstances," said Mayor Trotman after the meeting. "Clearly, the commissioner understands our concern. He made no bones in explaining his position, which was that he has to plan holistically ... and to a degree I agree with him that it just would not be the most prudent thing to do to spend a lot of money concentrating on just the left-lane turn on Harrison Street."
Mayor Trotman said she is nevertheless "optimistic" that the involved municipalities will be able to work with the county and the state to provide for a left-turn lane on a faster time frame to accommodate the need generated by the hospital relocation.
©PACKETONLINE News Classifieds Entertainment Business - Princeton and Central New Jersey 2006
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Sierra Club e-mailers swamp bypass study
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 07/29/2003
Rutgers transportation institute inundated with duplicates of same letter opposing east-side connector road.
On Thursday, the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club e-mailed more than 5,200 volunteers who have signed on to its "Action Network" to mobilize a write-in campaign on the former Millstone Bypass.
Within hours, computers at the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University were inundated with scores of duplicates of the same letter opposing one of the bypass alternatives under consideration, a controversial east-side connector road that would link Route 1 with Route 571 through the Sarnoff Corp. property.
"They're all identical, from all over New Jersey," institute director Martin Robins said Thursday. "It's a very curious development.
Copies from across the state continued to roll in on Friday, Mr. Robins said. A copy sent Thursday had been sent by a Voorhees staffer who is currently in Europe and doesn't have access to her e-mail at home, he said.
Drafted by Sierra Club volunteers, the letter is available on the Web under the heading, "Take Action! Stop the Princeton Area Sprawl Highway!" and supports alternative "D.2," which includes Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road.
With a press of the send key, members of the Action Network - as well as friends and relatives notified by them and anyone else who visits the site - are able to send off copies of the letter almost instantaneously. Copies go to the Voorhees institute, Gov. James McGreevey, Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) and New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Jon Corzine.
West Windsor Township Councilwoman Alison Miller, whose municipality supports the east-side connector road because it would funnel traffic away from the Penns Neck neighborhood and provide needed east-west access to and from the municipality, said Voorhees should have seen the electronic barrage coming.
"There's nothing in law or logic that says a public process must accept comments through e-mail," Ms. Miller said. "I think the fault lies with Voorhees for not realizing how easily abused the process can be.
"It's too easy to push a button and send an e-mail," the councilwoman continued. "By accepting e-mail they opened a can of worms, because it's so easily abused. If you don't like being inundated with scores of identical screeds, don't accept e-mail."
West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said he is not surprised by the Sierra Club's action, but said he hoped decision makers will evaluate the roadway alternatives based on the substance of the facts before them rather than on the volume of write-ins for a given side.
The mayor also questioned whether those who sent the e-mails really understood the issues under review in the Penns Neck area draft environmental impact statement.
"Of course people will take advantage of the democratic open process," Mayor Hsueh said. "I believe the Sierra Club is hoping that decision-makers will go by the numbers of people who support their position. I hope this will not be the case. They should look at the substance in order to make a quality decision."
The Sierra Club's Laura Lynch said action alert systems like the one employed by her group are a legitimate lobbying tool used by groups from across the political spectrum.
"This is a public process and people have a right to voice their opinions," she said.
Ms. Lynch said members volunteer to be sent an action alert e-mail and then it's up to them whether to send off a letter. They also may edit or change the letter however they wish, or delete it entirely in favor of a different message, and use the e-mail system to broadcast it.
When asked whether the system was open to abuses in which a member could send multiple copies of the letter under different names in order to give a false impression of a large base of support, Ms. Lynch said it was possible but unlikely.
The system is rigged to permit only one write-in per e-mail address; however, a user with two or more addresses could send multiple copies under assumed names, she said.
"But any system can be abused like that," she noted. "I could do that by regular mail."
Ms. Lynch said she didn't know how the copy from the Voorhees staffer away in Europe cited by Mr. Robins was sent.
The former 2.3-mile Millstone Bypass has been in dispute since 1986 when the state Department of Transportation first submitted the alignment to solve the traffic dilemma in the Penns Neck area of Route 1.
The DOT enlisted the institute to prepare an EIS after then Gov. Christie Whitman rejected its recommendation favoring the bypass in 2000. The draft EIS examines 19 roadway alternatives and a no-build alternative.
The state transportation agency is expected to review the draft environmental document with public comments and issue its final EIS with a preferred alignment around September. It then must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration.
Write-in comments from the public are being accepted until Friday.
©PACKETONLINE News Classifieds Entertainment Business - Princeton and Central New Jersey 2003
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Process yields worthy model for state DOT
By: Packet Editorial 07/03/2003
PACKET EDITORIAL, July 4
In March 2001, when the state Department of Transportation decided to remove the "Millstone Bypass" from its vocabulary and start talking about the "Penns Neck Area" instead, we thought the state agency better known for obstinacy than creativity might actually be onto something.
We observed at the time that the "Millstone Bypass" referred to a very specific construction project advocated by the DOT, a proposal to redirect traffic from Washington Road and Harrison Street (and remove the traffic lights at their respective intersections with Route 1) onto a roadway that would run roughly from the Princeton Junction train station through the Sarnoff Corp. property and hook up with Washington Road just to the east of Carnegie Lake.
Shifting the emphasis from this particular roadway alignment to a wider-ranging study of the "Penns Neck Area," we noted, suggested that many options, including alternatives to a bypass road of any kind, might be considered.
And indeed they were. For the past two years, the Voorhees Transportation Institute at Rutgers University has brokered a thoroughgoing public examination and discussion of the project formerly known as the Millstone Bypass and all reasonable alternatives to it. A community advisory roundtable has convened regularly to share thoughts, ideas and, on many occasions, some pointedly differing views about the various options under consideration.
This painstaking process - not always collaborative but infinitely more cordial than the traditional top-down approach the DOT has taken to transportation planning - produced 19 possible roadway schemes along with a no-build alternative. All of these options are analyzed thoroughly in a draft environmental impact statement released last month. This week, public hearings were held to gather testimony on the draft EIS, and to move toward final disposition of this critical and still controversial project.
As heartened as we were by the willingness of the DOT to try something new and different, and as impressed as we have been by the openness of the roundtable process, this week's testimony offered striking proof of an age-old axiom: The more things change, the more they remain the same.
While consensus has apparently been achieved on many elements of a plan to speed traffic on Route 1 through the Penns Neck Area - including, significantly, the so-called Route 1-in-a-cut design below Washington Road - there remains one overarching point of disagreement. Towns on the east side of Route 1 (West Windsor and Plainsboro), along with some prominent planning groups, strongly favor an east-side connector road that would link Route 1 with Route 571 through the Sarnoff property. Towns on the west side of Route 1 (Princeton Borough and Princeton Township), along with some prominent environmental groups, are unalterably opposed to the east-side connector road.
To appreciate the significance of this disagreement, there's only one thing you need to know. What is now being referred to as the east-side connector road had a different name a couple of years ago: the Millstone Bypass.
In fairness, the Millstone Bypass as envisioned by the DOT continued west of Route 1, and linked up with Washington Road just before the bridge over Lake Carnegie. That piece, or some variation of it, may or may not be included in the final design. But the section of the bypass running through the Sarnoff property has always been a source of controversy and conflict among the communities and groups involved - and it plainly remains as contentious today as it was two years ago.
So, when all is said and done, the DOT is still going to have to make a difficult decision about the Millstone Bypass/Penns Neck Area - one that will obviously not be to everyone's liking. Perhaps it was naive to think it could ever turn out otherwise. Still, the open, participatory process in which all interested parties have been engaged for the past two years has been a welcome change from the DOT's business as usual. Whether it results in complete consensus or respectful disagreement, it should serve as a model for the agency's approach to regional transportation planning in the future.
©PACKETONLINE News Classifieds Entertainment Business - Princeton and Central New Jersey 2003
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Officials split over east-side connector road
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 07/03/2003
Alternatives to the former Millstone Bypass debated at public hearing.
In ongoing public hearings Monday on alternatives to the former Millstone Bypass, officials from West Windsor Township came out strongly in support of an east-side connector road - an outstanding issue on which Princeton officials have said further study is needed.
West Windsor Township Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said the connector road, which would link Route 1 with Route 571 through the Sarnoff Corp. property, is of "foremost importance" to West Windsor residents, because it would funnel traffic away from the Penns Neck neighborhood and provide needed east-west access to and from the municipality.
Without it, Mayor Hsueh said, Alexander Road would be West Windsor's single means of access across Route 1 in the event traffic signals at Washington Road, Fisher Place and Harrison Street are removed - the original goal of the former Millstone Bypass.
"One crossing is clearly insufficient from a safety perspective alone where access is required to Princeton hospital and fire and emergency must be able to rapidly respond to all businesses and residents ... in West Windsor Township," the mayor said.
The east-side connector, Alexander Road and Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road - another roadway component under consideration - would help provide a balanced flow of traffic, the mayor said.
Public comment continued throughout the day and evening Monday at the New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center in West Windsor.
The Penns Neck area draft environmental impact statement, prepared by the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University on behalf of the state Department of Transportation, examines 19 roadway alternatives and a no-build alternative. The daylong hearings were held to gather public input on the environmental review document.
West Windsor Councilwoman Alison Miller, also speaking in support of the east-side connector, said the protection of moderately priced, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods like Penns Neck and Berrien City exemplifies what smart growth is all about.
"Smart growth means economic diversity and walkable communities," Ms. Miller said. "That's why it is so important to get the traffic out of them."
Also, the West Windsor councilwoman said Sarnoff intends to develop its land one way or another. "So the alternative to the east-side connector is either another road that's built by a private entity, who can ignore the archaeological findings, or office buildings," she said.
Ms. Miller said the West Windsor Council is "very much" opposed to Route 1-in-a-cut, a component which has been embraced by environmental-protection advocates and Princeton officials.
Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand reaffirmed several goals and preferred roadway components cited by numerous other Princeton officials.
These include maintaining with balanced traffic the three main entrances to Princeton; protection of environmental resources like Lake Carnegie and the Delaware & Raritan Canal; limiting through traffic to ensure that Harrison Street doesn't become a bypass from the east to Interstate 287; and protection of residential neighborhoods.
Mayor Marchand said Route 1-in-a-cut, frontage roads on Route 1, a diamond instead of cloverleaf interchange, a Vaughn Drive connector road and a west-side connector between Route 1 and Harrison Street designed with neighborhood protection in mind are among the preferred components.
However, she said, "A position on the east-side connector has not been developed for a variety of reasons, and I strongly suggest the partners' roundtable be reconvened to resolve the issue."
Laura Lynch of the Sierra Club said her organization supports alternative "D.2," which has all the elements cited by Mayor Marchand, but no east-side connector.
"If you want to sum it up, it's the east-side connector, stupid," Ms. Lynch said of the divisive roadway alternative, which she said would be the "private corporate driveway" of Sarnoff if it is built.
Alan Goodheart of Harrison Street in Princeton, a participant in the roundtable sessions, said the reasoning and emotions on both side of the debate over the east-side connector are "heartfelt and strong."
Mr. Goodheart, a member of Millstone Bypass Alert, a group that opposed the proposed road when it was the major component of the Millstone Bypass, said he could support such a roadway - provided, that is, that continued public oversight and mitigation are adhered to by the DOT, the road is limited to two lanes and the connector is built last in order to ensure the state agency doesn't build it without the other approved elements and then claim money woes.
The former 2.3-mile Millstone Bypass has been in dispute since 1986 when the DOT first submitted the alignment to solve the traffic dilemma in the Penns Neck area of Route 1. The DOT enlisted the Transportation Policy Institute to draft the EIS after Gov. Christie Whitman rejected its recommendation favoring the bypass in 2000.
The state transportation agency is expected to review the draft environmental document with public comments and issue its final EIS with a preferred alignment around September, which then must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration.
Write-in comments from the public are being accepted until Aug. 1.
©PACKETONLINE News Classifieds Entertainment Business - Princeton and Central New Jersey 2003
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Bypass options narrowing down
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 07/01/2003
A low-key gathering of community leaders after an exhaustive scoping process.
WEST WINDSOR - Community leaders sounded off Monday on what they think should and shouldn't be built as an alternative to the former Millstone Bypass.
Public hearings on the Penns Neck area draft environmental impact statement, which examines 19 roadway schemes and one no-build alternative, were held Monday at the New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center off Alexander Road in West Windsor Township.
The tenor and the turnout were of a considerably lower key than at past hearings on the subject, which often were emotionally charged and tended to reaffirm a difference of opinion between Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, which opposed the former 2.3-mile roadway, and West Windsor, which favored it.
This can be attributed to the exhaustive public-scoping process that began after Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the state Department of Transportation's recommendation favoring the bypass in 2000, and which was undertaken by the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University with input from a community advisory roundtable.
Through an extensive series of interviews and public forums attended by dozens of individuals and organizations, as well as 35 meetings of the roundtable since 2001, all sides of the debate have gathered, examined and hashed out their opinions on reams and reams of data.
On Monday, officials presented findings and outlined some of their conclusions from the environmental review document.
Pam Hersh, director of community and state affairs at Princeton University and a roundtable participant, said the university endorses a Vaughn Drive connector road, and an east-side connector linking Route 1 with Route 571 through the Sarnoff Corp. property, the most significant outstanding point of contention in the environmental review.
Also, Ms. Hersh said the university endorses Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road, Route 1 frontage roads, and a connector road linking the western side of Route 1 with Harrison Street near Lake Carnegie.
"As the landowner most affected by any road project within the scope of this impact statement, we have always been prepared to cooperate in designs that improve the movement of traffic and respect the environment," Ms. Hersh said.
That is, she added, "as long as they also respect the integrity of our lands and allow us, over time, to use our lands effectively to advance our academic and educational objectives."
Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed reaffirmed priorities outlined last week by the Princeton Regional Planning Board's Circulation Subcommittee.
Whatever is built should maintain the three entries into town from Route 1; protect the Delaware & Raritan Canal, Lake Carnegie and the Washington Road elms; protect Harrison Street from becoming a bypass for through traffic; and protect residential neighborhoods, Mayor Reed said.
The borough mayor endorsed several of the roadway elements Ms. Hersh cited, which are among the components the roundtable reached consensus on - except for the east-side connector, upon which Mayor Reed said further discussion is needed.
Mayor Reed also called for a commuter-options package including rideshare services, vanpool incentives and added jitney or shuttle services, but noted that such a package "is a necessary supplement, not a substitute, for essential roadway improvements that must be made along Route 1 in the Penns Neck area."
George Hawkins, executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, said his organization endorses alternative "D.2," the same endorsed by the Princeton Environmental Commission, which includes all the elements cited by Ms. Hersh and Mayor Reed - but no east-side connector through the Sarnoff property.
"It improves traffic flow as well as protecting the environment," Mr. Hawkins said of the alternative.
Grace Sinden of the Princeton Environmental Commission said the commission is worried about "significant environmental impacts" from an east-side connector, such as reduced groundwater recharge resulting from increased impervious surfaces, increased pollutants in the Millstone River, wetland destruction, and habitat and wildlife destruction.
Ms. Sinden said the commission is also calling for a wildlife survey and a study to determine a mitigation strategy for residual contamination on the Sarnoff Corp. property that the commission worries could be disturbed by roadway construction.
The DOT is expected to prepare a final EIS by about September using the draft document and public input. The final EIS will include a DOT-recommended alternative, which must then be approved by the Federal Highway Administration.
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Penns Neck Area bypass proposal gains support
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
By DARRYL R. ISHERWOOD
WEST WINDSOR - After years of contentious discussion surrounding the proposed Penns Neck Area bypass, several groups voiced agreement yesterday as the public got its first say on the recently completed Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The study, conducted over the past two years, outlines the potential impact each of 19 possible options for the bypass would have on the environment, traffic patterns and surrounding infrastructure. Among the 19 options is not to build a road.
The study used traffic forecasts for 2028 in forming conclusions about what the area will face if nothing is done to alleviate congestion in the region.
Concerned groups and citizens from the region, including representatives of the four townships affected, were at the hearing yesterday to voice opinions on the proposed options.
While several groups have yet to have their say, one option seems to have gained a good deal of support from several groups that have been involved in the process, including both Princetons and the Stony Brook-Millstone River Watershed Association, an environmental group.
The option favored by the groups - known as the D option - would place Route 1 below grade at Washington Road, while a new road would run from Harrison Street near the Delaware & Raritan Canal to Route 1. A new interchange would be built at Harrison Street, with a series of frontage roads running alongside Route 1. The option has three variations. Two would include the east side connector road, which would run through the Sarnoff property in West Windsor and connect Route 571 to the Harrison Street interchange. The third variation would not include the connector.
The east side connector has long been a divisive element of the project, with both Princetons opposing it and West Windsor and Plainsboro strongly in favor.
Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed told the representatives of the state Department of Transportation that the D options most closely achieve all of the goals of the project. Princeton Borough has long been an opponent of the east side connector road, but Reed said he did not necessarily oppose it now.
"I think that's going to be resolved. From my conversations with the West Windsor mayor I understand that (the east side connector) is extremely important as far as West Windsor is concerned," said Reed.
Reed said that the connector would be located largely on Sarnoff-owned property and would most likely be built by Sarnoff with private funding, if not included in the scope of the project.
Other groups, including the watershed group, were more direct in opposing the connector.
The association contends an east side connector would "destroy critical habitats, decrease recharge, and fragment the habitat along the Millstone River."
West Windsor, with support from Plainsboro, has long said that the connector is the most important piece of the puzzle and the entire project will be all but useless without it.
"The East Side Connector . . . is essential for the health and safety of the Route 1 corridor, not just West Windsor Township," said West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh.
Hsueh said the D options favored by other towns would be a "good starting point" as long as the east side connector is included, but the D option without the connector would be "disastrous" for West Windsor.
A final EIS, which will choose one of the 19 options, is expected to be issued by the DOT in September after all of the public comments are considered.
Anthony Sabidussi, project manager for DOT during the process, said that the cost of the project - expected to range from $12 million to more than $97 million - will be a factor in the DOT's decision.
"I'd be lying if I said that cost was not a consideration, but if the DOT feels it's valid to spend the money to deal with community impacts and environmental impacts, so be it," he said.
Sabidussi said the DOT is not committed to one alternative but the no-build option, while still on the table, was an unlikely choice.
Copyright 2003 The Times.
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Officials divide on bypass
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 06/27/2003
Princeton panel settles on goals, not a specific alignment.
With public hearings set for Monday, officials in Princeton spent this week trying to reach consensus on a preferred alternative to the former Millstone Bypass.
On Monday at the New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center on Alexander Road in West Windsor, a public hearing will be held on the Penns Neck area draft environmental impact statement, which evaluates 19 roadway and one no-build alternative to the controversial bypass.
For about two years, Princeton officials have worked toward consensus with its neighbors on this divisive issue, taking part in an advisory round table to the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University, which compiled the document on behalf of the state Department of Transportation.
This week, Princeton officials held several talks to decide how to best represent the community's position to transportation officials at Monday's hearing - that is, to reach consensus among themselves.
On Tuesday, the Circulation Subcommittee of the Princeton Regional Planning Board opted to draw up a broad set of goals and preferred elements rather than endorse a single alignment.
The subcommittee wants whatever is finally built to do the following:
· Maintain the three entryways into town from Route 1;
· Protect the Delaware & Raritan Canal, Lake Carnegie and the Washington Road elms;
· Protect Harrison Street from becoming a bypass for through traffic; and
· Protect residential neighborhoods.
Preferred roadway elements include Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road, a Vaughn Drive connector road, frontage roads on Route 1 and diamond rather than cloverleaf interchanges.
The subcommittee also decided to endorse the findings and points of consensus arrived at by the round table, but remained undecided on an east-side connector road linking Route 1 to Route 571 through the Sarnoff Corp. property.
Planning Board member Wendy Benchley said she would not support the statement if it endorsed the east-side connector, a standing point of contention on the round table that has generally been opposed by Princeton while endorsed by West Windsor Township.
In fact, Princeton officials this week expressed concern West Windsor could build the connector road regardless of what alignment the DOT finally selects, because of the apparent determination there to see the roadway built and because such a road is already written into West Windsor's Master Plan.
The decidedly vague approach taken by the subcommittee reflects the variety of opinion in evidence among Princeton officials.
Last week, the Princeton Environmental Commission officially endorsed alternative "D.2," which essentially comprises the roadway components outlined by the subcommittee, as well as a spur from the western side of Route 1 to the Harrison Street bridge.
D.2 does not include an east-side connector - the commission said it would be environmentally harmful to wetlands and habitats, among other things.
The Princeton Township Committee has not taken an official position yet. But at its meeting Monday night, Committeeman Bernard Miller said he opposed D.2 because he said it would overwhelm the neighborhood around Harrison Street with traffic, particularly the Jugtown area near the intersection of Harrison and Nassau streets.
"Why would we support an alternative that would have detrimental impacts on one of our neighborhoods?" Mr. Miller said.
At the start of the subcommittee meeting Tuesday, member Peter Madison said he preferred alternative "A.2," which includes Route 1-in-a-cut and an east-side connector, because he said it expedites traffic flow both east-west and north-south.
On Tuesday night, Princeton Borough Councilman David Goldfarb said he favors the "C" alternative, which does not feature Route 1-in-a-cut, and requested that borough Mayor Marvin Reed testify as a participant of the round table but not give a Borough Council endorsement.
Borough Councilman Joseph O'Neill said that the "D.2" option will not work without a connector road from the east.
At the hearing Monday, material will be available for review between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. A formal presentation followed by a public-comment period is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. A repeat of the presentation followed by public comment is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Written comments on the draft EIS are permitted and must be received no later that Aug. 1. If needed, a second public hearing will be held on Tuesday at the West Windsor municipal complex from 7 to 11 p.m.
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Planning Board Evaluates Options for Penn's Neck
By Rebecca Blackwell
The Regional Planning Board of Princeton met Tuesday morning to evaluate the alternative designs being considered by the New Jersey Department of Transportation to alleviate congestion in the Penn's Neck area. The board will be one of many municipal and regional groups to weigh in June 30 at a public hearing on the roadway schemes.
Board members agreed that several design factors would be particularly important for the Penn's Neck area, which is roughly bordered by Harrison Street, Carnegie Lake, Alexander Road, and the Northeast Corridor train line.
Chief among the board's recommendations was maintaining Washington Road at its current grade and channeling Route 1 underneath it. Members also felt strongly that service roads should be added alongside Route 1 between Washington Road and Harrison Street.
The interchange at Harrison Street and Route 1 should be a diamond interchange rather than a clover-leaf, said board members. They also agreed that the design should include extending Vaughn Drive northeast to connect Alexander Road to Washington Road just west of the Princeton Junction train station.
The Planning Board chose not to take a stance at this point in the process on one of the more controversial elements of many of the designs: the proposed East Side Connector, a four-lane road extending east from Route 1 in the area of Harrison Street, traversing undeveloped land belonging to the Sarnoff Corporation, and linking to Washington Road near the Princeton Junction train station.
The Planning Board also stopped short of formally advocating one of the 19 plans presented in the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared last month by the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. and New Jersey departments of transportation. The board recognized, however, that its preferences for the design were best met by the "D" series of alternatives.
The Princeton Environmental Commission has expressed its support for the so-called D-2 alternative, which incorporates all of the design elements advocated by the Planning Board, but does not include the construction of the East Side Connector. The road, which would cross Little Bear Brook and run along the Millstone River, would increase pollution in the river, destroy wetlands, and impair fish and bird habitats, wrote the Environmental Commission in its statement prepared for the June 30 meeting.
Princeton Township Committee discussed the EIS report at its Monday night meeting. No formal recommendation was made, but many committee members expressed support for the D-2 alternative.
Planning Board Member Wanda Gunning noted Tuesday that the Sarnoff property is known to contain archaeological artifacts, but the location of culturally important sites is not precisely known. Environmental impacts should be given a higher priority, she said, since they can be predicted with more certainty than cultural impacts.
Mr. Solow noted that the EIS alternatives address most of the concerns raised by the Planning Board about the original Millstone Bypass plan.
The board's concerns included protecting residential neighborhoods; protecting the Delaware and Raritan Canal, Lake Carnegie, and the allee of elm trees on Washington Road; limiting through traffic, particularly on Harrison Street; and maintaining a balanced traffic distribution on the three entry routes to Princeton from Route 1 - Harrison Street, Washington Road, and Alexander Road.
Several members of the public also shared their opinions with the Planning Board.
Alan Goodheart of Harrison Street urged the board to put its support behind the Penn's Neck Area EIS Roundtable, a regional group created by the New Jersey Department of Transportation to study the issue. Mayors Reed and Marchand are both members of the Roundtable, which has spent more than two years building a consensus which is also consistent with the D alternatives.
Patrick Lyons of Westcott Road called the proposed East Side Connector "the poster child for induced demand and sprawl," saying it would be responsible for much of the new traffic projected for the Penn's Neck area.
Ridgeview Road resident Lincoln Hollister concurred, saying the increase in waiting time at Washington Road would be minimal without the added traffic attracted by the road.
Michael Suber, chair of the Sidewalk and Bikeway Advisory Committee, noted that the DOT had agreed to conduct a feasibility study on the possible construction of a bicycle bridge over Route 1 just south of the Dinky bridge.
The Federal Highway Administration has scheduled a presentation and public hearing on the proposed alternatives for 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on June 30 at the New Jersey Association Conference Center at 760 Alexander Road.
Copyright Town Topics 2003
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Environmental study released to West Windsor residents
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
By DARRYL R. ISHERWOOD
The long-awaited draft of the Penns Neck Area Environmental Impact Study was released to the public last week in anticipation of a public hearing to be held at the end of June.
The study, which was completed by the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center of Rutgers University, was conducted during two years to assess the environmental impact of the project formerly known as the Millstone bypass.
The report, which was originally scheduled to be completed in April, included input from some 32 interested groups, including representatives from West Windsor, Plainsboro, Princeton Township and Princeton Borough, the towns most affected by the proposed road project.
The public hearing is set for June 30 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center on Alexander Road in West Windsor. A formal presentation is scheduled for 11 a.m. with a public comment period to follow and a second presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The study looked at 19 different options - including a no-build option that would leave the area untouched - in order to relieve the traffic in the Penns Neck section of West Windsor.
Costs for the bypass are projected to range from $12 million to $97.5 million, depending on which of the options is chosen. Those projections do not include several factors such as environmental mitigation, cost of the rights of way and engineering designs that could push the cost higher.
West Windsor Councilwoman Alison Miller, who took part in the two-year process, said she thought the roundtable discussion was a useful tool that opened many people's eyes.
"The process was educational," Miller said. "It took people away from their extreme positions. It has shown most people that the other side has a point."
West Windsor Mayor Shing-fu Hsueh said he is beginning to prepare a presentation for the public hearing to outline the township's position on the bypass.
Hsueh said the township at this point is not committed to one particular option, but rather to a combination of alternatives.
The ideal West Windsor plan would include a connector road from Route 1 through the Sarnoff property ending at Route 571, and a component known as Route 1 in a cut, which would require the highway to be dug down and pass beneath Washington Road.
This position is a deviation from the original Millstone bypass alignment, which the town has favored since the project was first proposed in the 1980s.
Both Hsueh and Miller say the main component they want is three entrances into and three exits out of West Windsor.
The township's favored alternatives - a combination of options known as the A and D alternatives - are not only the costliest options, but they also have some of the greatest impact on the surrounding environment, including an effect on the habitat of a long-eared owl that was spotted in the woods on the Sarnoff property.
The ultimate decision will rest with the state, which is expected to choose an option sometime in August after the public has its say.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Horan said the agency is looking forward to the public's input.
"The department is pleased to be moving into the community involvement process where we can have a full, open and honest discussion with the public and work toward achieving a preferred alternative," Horan said.
Copyright 2003 The Times.
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Bypass draft review released to public
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 06/03/2003
Hearing is scheduled for June 30.
The draft environmental review of the former Millstone Bypass is now available to the public.
The document, compiled by the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University over the course of about two years in cooperation with a community advisory roundtable, can be viewed at various area libraries and clerks' offices.
A formal public hearing on the document is scheduled for June 30 at the New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center on Alexander Road in West Windsor Township.
At the hearing, material will be available for review between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. A formal presentation followed by a public-comment period is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. A repeat of the presentation followed by public comment is scheduled for 7 p.m., according to the Transportation Policy Institute.
Copies of the Penns Neck area draft environmental impact statement are available for viewing at the West Windsor Public Library; the Plainsboro Public Library; the Princeton Township Clerk's Office; and the Princeton Borough Clerk's Office.
The document can also be viewed at the Transportation Policy Institute on Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, and at state Department of Transportation headquarters on Parkway Avenue in Ewing Township, according to the institute.
Jon Carnegie, senior project manager with the institute, said the draft EIS is an information rather than a decision document, and does not recommend any one of the 19 roadway alternatives currently under consideration. There is also a no-build option.
The draft EIS is a compilation and comparison of alternatives. Findings presented there indicate that traffic problems along the Route 1 corridor will worsen if nothing is built, Mr. Carnegie said.
Preliminary cost estimates for the alternatives range from $12 million to $97.5 million, according data in the draft document. The most expensive variation includes Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road, which the roundtable tentatively seems to favor.
However, members could not reach consensus on including an east-side connector road to Route 1 from Route 571 that would run through the Sarnoff Corp. property in West Windsor.
West Windsor Township Councilwoman Alison Miller, who has taken part in the roundtable discussions, said her community supports the necessity of three ways in and out of the township, and so believes an east-side connector is essential.
"We support the maximum access across Route 1, but we support a whole package, not pieces," Ms. Miller said.
West Windsor officials are preparing an official position to present at the June 30 hearings, the councilwoman said.
David Breithaupt, chairman of the Princeton Environmental Commission, said the commission opposes the east-side connector, while endorsing Route 1-in-a-cut with frontage roads and a Vaughn Drive connector road.
The east-side connector road, Mr. Breithaupt said, would cause ecological and archaeological damages no matter how it is run through the Sarnoff property.
Pam Hersh, director of community and state affairs at Princeton University and a roundtable participant, said she hopes the Rutgers team makes a strong case for building one of the proposals versus the no-build alternative.
"We believe it's very needed," Ms. Hersh said, stressing that something must be done to address Route 1 traffic problems.
Noelle MacKay of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, also a roundtable member, said her organization plans to make its recommendation at the public hearing.
"We plan to help provide balanced comments on the report," Ms. MacKay said. "We now need to look at it as a coherent whole."
The DOT is expected to prepare a final EIS using the draft document and input from the public. The final EIS will include a recommended alternative, which must then be approved by the Federal Highway Administration.
Written comments on the draft EIS are permitted and must be received no later that Aug. 1. If needed, a second public hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 1, the transportation institute said.
The former 2.3-mile Millstone Bypass has been in dispute since 1986, when the DOT first submitted the alignment to solve the traffic dilemma in the Penns Neck area of Route 1.
The state DOT enlisted the Transportation Policy Institute to draft the EIS after Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the DOT's recommendation favoring the bypass in 2000.
©PACKETONLINE News Classifieds Entertainment Business - Princeton and Central New Jersey 2003
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Bypass proposal on track
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 05/06/2003
Federal highway agency expected to respond soon.
The draft environmental review of alternative solutions to traffic problems in the Penns Neck area of Route 1 - a document that grew out of the state Department of Transportation's former Millstone Bypass proposal - has been forwarded to the Federal Highway Administration for review.
The draft Environmental Impact Statement was sent to the Federal Highway Administration late last month, DOT spokeswoman Anna Farneski said.
Comments and approval of the draft document by the highway agency are expected this month, with public distribution of the document expected in June. The projected 45-day public-comment period, which will include formal hearings possibly as soon as June 30, is tentatively set to end July 25, Ms. Farneski said.
No date is set for the DOT's release of its final EIS, which will include input from the public-comment period and a recommended roadway alignment.
The draft EIS has been under preparation for around two years by Rutgers University's Transportation Policy Institute in cooperation with a community round table that was convened to resolve longstanding conflict over the former bypass proposal. The final meeting of the round table was held April 14.
Several members of the round table said they were satisfied with the timetable for public release of the document, despite some confusion about when it would be released to the public. The April 30 deadline for completion of the draft EIS was apparently for its submission to the Federal Highway Administration, and not to the general public as many had thought.
"I think we're right on schedule," said Pam Hersh, Princeton University's director of community and state relations and a round table participant.
Ms. Hersh said the round table, which brought together dozens of people from all sides of the debate, has been an effective though challenging mediation process.
"I have been amazed by the fact they really did get the participants to sit down and talk without hostility," Ms. Hersh said. "I thought it was a very positive process. It was painful. It was very labor-intensive."
Alan Goodheart, a Harrison Street resident who participated in round table meetings, commended the Rutgers team for delaying its release of the draft EIS to the Federal Highway Administration in order to include results from the "synthesis workshops" conducted during the round table's final two meetings.
The workshops were an attempt by the group to piece together the various elements of the 19 variations of seven broad road-alignment schemes under review, as well as a no-build alternative, to see what the group could agree upon.
Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road is one possible solution the round table reached consensus on, as was a Vaughn Drive-connector road, the use of frontage roads along Route 1, and the need for a wildlife inventory.
The workshop participants were unable to reach consensus on an east-side connector road from Route 571 to Route 1, which, depending on how it is placed, could run along the Millstone River, the back of residences along Fisher Place, or down the middle of the Sarnoff Corp. property.
Mr. Goodheart said he hopes to seek ongoing discussions of problem areas such as the connector road while the draft document undergoes Federal Highway Administration review.
Laura Lynch of the Central New Jersey Sierra Club, who participated in the round table, said she was not troubled that the public release of the document is later than expected, and said the mediated round table was an effective exercise.
"I think we all deserve a degree in public policy after this," Ms. Lynch said. "A lot of things fell through the cracks that we ended up catching. I think it was a really good thing."
Noelle MacKay of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association noted that the Rutgers team had extended the deadline for the draft EIS at the request of round table members who said the process was being rushed at the expense of thoroughness.
Ms. MacKay said now she hopes the scheduling of the public review phase in the summer, when people are out of town on vacations, will not exclude the fullest possible public input.
"You want to make sure you get people involved, that you can get people to come," she said.
©Packet Online 2003
The following letter appeared in the Princeton Packet on Friday, May 9, 2003. It is in response to the Packet article published on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 and reprinted below Paula's letter.
Penns Neck EIS has serious issues
To the editor:
The Packet article (May 6) on the Penns Neck Area Environmental Impact Statement correctly states that the Roundtable could not reach consensus on an eastside connector road.
This was not, however, just a disagreement over the possible alignment of such a road, but also over whether or not any eastside connector road should be built with public funding. Participants had strong views on the question, from local concerns about traffic to broader concerns about the natural environment. It is not surprising that no consensus was reached - nor was the Roundtable required to reach consensus. The public should know that serious issues are still at stake and make every effort to inform themselves in advance of the public hearing that will be held at some future date.
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Now we've bypassed the rancor
by Pam Hersh
4/15/03 Princeton Packet
No road, no overpass, no path has been built in connection with what was known as the Millstone Bypass, now knows as the Penns Neck Area Project. And no one knows if or when anything will be built. One structure has gone up, however--a bridge, created not by the civil engineers or traffic engineers, but the human behavior engineers.
During the past 22 months, a bridge has been built with papers, e-mails and countless meetings. These unusual building blocks have linked a bunch of warring lords and ladies, dubbed stakeholders of the "Partners' Roundtable," who now are breaking bread together and laughing together--and who may even miss one another when this whole process is over.
Two years ago I got rather chilled from:hiding and huddling in the frozen foods section of McCaffrey's in order to avoid a very chilly:reception from a group of hot and bothered and frustrated anti-Millstone Bypass advocates. They were blaming Princeton University; my employer,for the road which was going to have allegedly apocalyptic ramifications on their neighborhood and the entire region. The tension and frustration levels on both the pro-bypass and ant-bypass sides were so intense that neither set of advocates was hearing anything the other was saying.
The state Department of Transportation, acutely aware of the public policy challenges that the P.enns Neck Bypass presented, hired the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University "to design and manage the Penns Neck Area Environmental Impact Statement process."
This meant taking a large dysfunctional group of local officials and citizens and coming up with a negotiated set of agreements on parameters and goals for the project, and --maybe, just maybe--a consensus on an alignment.
Although I doubt whether every person on the:Partners' Roundtable will wholeheartedly endorse the same alignment, the partners, amazingly enough, are agreeing on many things,: agreeing to disagree on others, and doing so in a collegial environment. The process has been the couch potato's version of an Outward Bound expedition-- an inward-bound journey, during which the participants have been challenged by manmade elements of print and verbiage instead of Mother Nature.
At times, the Roundtable meetings had the feel of a kindergarten class filled with a bunch of hyperactive kids being forced to behave. People could speak only when called upon, in the order of when their hands went up--more accurately, when their tent card signs were placed standing up on their ends, an indication that they had something to say.
On other occasions, the experience was reminiscent of a support-group therapy session in which the therapists were trying to help us work out our "issues." And a few times I, felt as though I were attending a family gathering, at which the worst fights were about who was going to sit where and who was insulting whom by saying what.
Once we all began to play by the rules, the: members of the Roundtable talked honestly to one another, expressing what we did and did not like about the road, and trying to follow the sometimes mind-numbing details about the environmental traffic, archeological and historical impacts.
One of my favorite historical sites is the Sheep Wash, where they, well, used to wash sheep. But, more important from a social/cultural history point of view (in my opinion), is that the Sheep Wash was a big "make-out" spot in the days when we used to use the term "make-out." However, I doubt that tidbit will make it into the environmental
At this Passover-Easter time of the year, I admit to getting sentimental about the value of rebirth, rejuvenation and rethinking. I hope that as this process draws to a close, the stakeholders will restrain from regressing to the unproductive environment which characterized these road conversations prior to the Roundtable.
Although we may need Merlin to help us find a consensus, King Arthur had the right idea.
©The Princeton Packet 2003
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Millstone Bypass report expected by April
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 03/07/2003
Mediation process termed a success -- sort of.
With a draft environmental study of alternatives to the Millstone Bypass expected by the end of next month, officials say the mediation process begun by the state Department of Transportation in 2001 to resolve controversy over the roadway has been a success - sort of.
"I think it has had a positive effect," said Martin Robins, director of the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University. "I think there is less controversy than when we started, but I don't think it has diffused the controversy."
A team from Rutgers held an open house Wednesday night at the New Jersey Hospital Association building on Alexander Road in West Windsor. The organization presented its findings on potential traffic, environmental and historical and cultural impacts from 19 variations of seven broad road alignment schemes, as well as a no-build alternative.
The DOT commissioned Rutgers to study possible solutions to traffic congestion in the Penns Neck area around Route 1 after former Gov. Christie Whitman in 2000 rejected the agency's recommendation favoring the Millstone Bypass.
A draft Environmental Impact Statement on alternatives to the former state-endorsed roadway is expected in late April. The DOT is expected to announce its preferred alignment based on the EIS data by August.
The 19 variations comprise different configurations of several interchangeable features. Among them are: Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road; a Vaughn Drive connector road; frontage roads along Route 1; and connector roads to the east and/or west of Route 1 linking the highway with Route 571 to the east, and Harrison Street, Washington Road and Alexander Road to the west.
A configuration nearly identical to the former bypass is among the alternatives the DOT will consider as it prepares the final EIS.
The bypass was a 2.3-mile roadway that would have run northwest from Route 571 along the Millstone River, crossed Route 1 near Harrison Street and run along the Delaware & Raritan Canal to Washington Road, with a spur to Harrison Street. It was first submitted by the DOT in 1986 to remove three traffic lights from Route 1 in the Penns Neck area.
According to the data presented Wednesday, a key component of a successful alternative is unrestricted traffic flow on Route 1, which requires the removal of those lights, combined with at least one grade-separated east-west crossing of Route 1 north of Alexander Road. Nearly all the alternatives achieve these goals, according to the findings.
Alternatives having an east-side connector road - most of the alternatives do - would fragment "comparatively high quality" wildlife habitats in the Little Bear Brook wetland corridor and adjacent upland forest, according to the data.
All alternatives would result in permanent disturbance to from .6 to 4.1 of the study area's 820 acres of flood plains, and would bring between 3.2 and 33 acres of new road-related impervious surface.
The highest acreage of flood-plain disruption and new impervious surface would result from alternatives that most closely resemble the original Millstone Bypass, according to the findings.
Most alternatives would have a neutral or positive impact on the Penns Neck neighborhood in West Windsor Township, and a positive impact on the Lower Harrison Street neighborhood.
A Millstone Bypass-like alternative and one other are the only ones that don't bring negative impacts to residences on Bear Brook Road and the Windsor Haven neighborhood, according to the findings.
The field of possible alternatives has not been narrowed by the new data, according to officials, but Mr. Robins said some of the controversy has.
"We think that some of the controversy is narrowing," he said. "There's a greater understanding of the situation, and we're hoping we can get together on some of the ideas."
West Windsor Township Councilwoman Alison Miller said she thought the mediation process has been "somewhat effective for the people who have participated," but said she fears that mediation has only quieted dissent until the new DOT-preferred alignment is announced in August.
"I fear that when a conclusion comes out, people who were quiet all this time will become vocal with the very same arguments they had from the beginning," Ms. Miller said.
An advisory roundtable, which was convened to help resolve a long-running stalemate over the roadway, has met about 30 times since the process began, with a handful of meetings remaining, said Jon Carnegie, senior project manager with the Transportation Policy Institute.
The roundtable's job has been to assist Rutgers in building consensus on a solution to traffic woes in the Penns Neck area following more than a decade of controversy surrounding the former Millstone Bypass.
Pam Hersh, Princeton University's director of community and state affairs, described the mediated process as "an exhausting, exhaustive and excellent process, and in retrospect very, very worthwhile."
As to the end result, Ms. Hersh said, "I think we'll get consensus."
©Packet Online 2003
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Army Corps of Engineers to release environmental study for Route 92
Report on planned Route 1-Turnpike link should become available to public in April
Thursday, February 20, 2003
BY SUE EPSTEIN
The first draft of an environmental study of the proposed Route 92, a 6.7-mile toll road that would connect the New Jersey Turnpike with Route 1 in South Brunswick, should be available for public review by late April.
The study has been three years in the making and is expected to lead to a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on whether to grant the New Jersey Turnpike Authority a permit to destroy 14.8 acres of environmentally sensitive wetlands in South Brunswick.
Without the permit, the road can't be built.
In 2000, the Army Corps ordered the Turnpike Authority to conduct the environmental study after the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection split on whether to go forward and grant the permits.
The EPA opposed the project because it would destroy the wetlands, but the DEP granted the permit in 1999. The opposing decisions put the Turnpike Authority's permit application into the Army Corps' hands.
An e-mail authored by an officer with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has been circulating among activist groups opposing the project. The e-mail claims the Army Corps has already decided to throw the project back into the state's hands and take no position on the permit.
But Rich Tomer, head of regulatory affairs for the Army Corps of Engineers, denied his agency has made any decision on the application.
"We're neither opposed or in favor of the project," Tomer said yesterday. "The Turnpike Authority has applied for a permit and we're awaiting the results of the environmental impact review. We'll use it to make our decision."
Corps officials said they are aware the road is in the restricted zone of the state's new land-use map, designed to fight sprawl and overdevelopment.
Anna Farneski, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said the state is waiting for the Army Corps' study before making any decision on the project's future.
The proposed Route 92 would connect Interchange 8A of the Turnpike with Route 1 at Ridge Road in South Brunswick, traversing through what is now farmland and wooded areas in South Brunswick.
The project has the support of the Middlesex County freeholders and the governing bodies in Monroe and Plainsboro, but officials and many residents in South Brunswick oppose it.
Supporters say the road is necessary to meet increasing traffic demands in one of the state's most rapidly developing areas. Opponents, however, say it will not lessen traffic on local roads, only destroy open space and endanger the historic village of Kingston, which is near the road's terminus.
Sue Epstein covers Middlesex County. She can be reached at sep email@example.com or (732) 634-6482.
Copyright 2003 The Star-Ledger.
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WW planners decline to back bypass options
By: Gwen Runkle , Staff Writer 02/07/2003
Mayor's proposal rejected.
WEST WINDSOR - Despite township professionals' analysis showing that three versions of the Millstone Bypass could meet the township's needs, council and Planning Board members say they support only one option - the original bypass alignment.
Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh briefly outlined the analysis, conducted by Gary Davies, the township's traffic consultant, before the township Planning Board Wednesday night.
The mayor originally met with the Township Council in January to garner support for all or some of the three bypass alternatives, which include building the Millstone Bypass with additions like a Vaughn Drive connector road or depressing Route 1 under Washington Road.
But the council objected to such considerations, as did the Planning Board.
On Wednesday, the board took no action and called supporting anything other than the Millstone Bypass as outlined in the township Master Plan "irresponsible" and "premature."
West Windsor has traditionally supported a bypass that would run northwest from Route 571 along the Millstone River, crossing Route 1 near Harrison Street and running near the Delaware & Raritan Canal to Washington Road with a spur to Harrison Street.
An advisory roundtable of area government leaders, citizens and other officials is currently working to help the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University craft an environmental impact statement for 18 roadway alternatives.
A draft EIS is expected in April. The state Department of Transportation is expected to make a final decision on the bypass by August.
The DOT commissioned Rutgers to conduct the EIS and study possible solutions to traffic congestion in the Penns Neck area after former Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the agency's recommendation favoring the Millstone Bypass in 2000.
©Packet Online 2003
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Route 1 bypass options studied
Thursday, January 02, 2003
By TOM HESTER JR.
WEST WINDSOR - Every alternative route being considered for relieving traffic congestion along Route 1 in the Penns Neck area would disturb small amounts of wetlands, flood plains and groundwater, but the majority of the environmentally sensitive areas would remain untouched, according to a recent study.
Environmentalists are reserving judgment on the study until water quality tests are completed.
"We don't have a big part of it, which is the water quality," said Noelle Mackey of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.
Relieving congestion in the Penns Neck area - generally where Route 1 and Washington Road intersect - has been discussed since a 1986 study. The solution proposed was a two-lane road - the Millstone Bypass - connecting routes 1 and 571 at a cost of about $50 million. The road would run near the Millstone River.
After years of delay, the project was revived in 1998. But after an environmental assessment failed to bring consensus, the state Transportation Department hired the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute of Rutgers University to develop a new assessment with more public involvement. A round-table group has been meeting to consider options.
Several newly developed proposals are being considered for relieving traffic in the area. Most again recommend a new road running east from Route 1 through the Sarnoff Corp. property to Route 571.
An assessment of how the various proposals would affect the natural environment found all alternatives would result in:
-- Permanent wetlands disturbance ranging from .06 acres to .51 acres. The study area has 245 acres of wetlands.
-- Permanent upland vegetation disturbance, ranging from 1.34 acres to 19.54 acres.
-- Permanent flood plain disturbance, ranging from .63 acres to 4.1 acres. The study area has 821.2 acres of flood plains.
-- A .17 percent to 1.73 percent reduction in annual groundwater recharge capability.
The study found there are neither threatened nor endangered species living within the study area.
State Transportation Department spokeswoman Anna Farneski said it's too soon to comment on any findings until all information is gathered and the assessment is completed in the spring.
"It's just premature at this point," Farneski said.
All factors will be considered and community ideas regarded before a final decision is made, she said.
Upcoming studies will analyze potential effects on cultural resources, residential neighborhoods, preserved open space, parks and businesses. Once that is completed, the cumulative effects will be considered, state officials said.
Mackey, who is part of the roundtable group formed to consider options, said a closer look for threatened and endangered species is needed.
-- -- --
Laura Lynch of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter agreed a closer look for endangered species is needed, especially because a bald eagle reportedly has been sighted near Carnegie Lake. Officials will try to find a nest to see if the bald eagle lives in the study area, she said.
Mackey and Lynch said several sites are being tested in an effort to determine how the alternatives would influence water quality. That information, Mackey said, will provide a clearer idea of the potential impact on the natural environment.
"Let's see the whole picture," Mackey said. "What are the pros and cons? What does that mean for the Millstone River?"
The proposed alternatives include slightly varying options within each design but fall generally within seven categories:
-- Alternative A would put Route 1 below grade at Washington Road and create a new intersection at Harrison Street. A new road would be built off Harrison Street near the Delaware & Raritan Canal to Route 1. East of Route 1, a new road would run through the northern edge of the Sarnoff property along the Millstone River to Route 571.
-- Alternative B would keep Route 1 at grade level with Washington Road but remove traffic lights at Washington Road, Fisher Place and Harrison Street. The lights would be replaced with a loop interchange near Harrison Street, with east-west access eliminated across Route 1 at Washington Road. A new road would connect Harrison Street and Washington Road, while a new road east of Route 1 would cut through the northern edge of the Sarnoff property to Route 571.
-- Alternative C would keep Route 1 at grade level, remove the traffic signals and include a new interchange at Harrison Street, but a new frontage road would be built along the west side of Route 1, connecting Washington Road and Harrison Street. Alexander and Washington roads would be connected west of Route 1, but no new road would be built east of Route 1.
-- Alternative D would place Route 1 below grade at Washington Road, while a new road would run from Harrison Street near the canal to Route 1. The road would cross Route 1 and into the center of the Sarnoff property to Route 571. A new interchange would be built at Harrison Street, with new frontage roads running alongside Route 1 connecting the new interchange to Washington Road.
-- Alternative E would put Route 1 below grade at Washington Road and provide the new frontage roads but would include a new interchange near Fisher Place, a more north-south angled Harrison Street connector road and a new road through the Sarnoff property's southern edge.
-- Alternative F is similar to Alternative A, except it would eliminate through access at Harrison Street. East-west traffic would have to use Washington Road to get to the Princetons, while Route 1 travelers would have to use Harrison Street to get into the Princetons. This proposal is meant to maintain equal traffic distribution into and out of the Princetons.
-- Alternative G provides turning lane modifications on every Route 1 approach to Harrison Street and Washington Road, including center turn lanes. The traffic signal at Fisher Place would be removed and Fisher Place would become right-in and right-out only.
A no-build alternative also is being considered.
Most of the alternatives propose extending Vaughn Drive north from its terminus at the Princeton Junction train station to Washington Road.
Lynch said the Sierra Club prefers the alignment that will least affect the environment. The water quality tests will help make that decision clearer, she said.
"We can't really pick a favorite right now because we don't have any hard data," Lynch said.
Copyright 2003 The Times.
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West Windsor mulling three bypass options
By: Gwen Runkle , Staff Writer 01/21/2003
Mayor says he wants to pursue "a proactive posture to get the bypass we want."
WEST WINDSOR Traditionally, when it comes to the Millstone Bypass, township officials have staunchly supported only one option the original bypass plan. But after careful study,
township professionals agree three versions of the plan meet West Windsor's needs and should be considered for support.
Gary Davies, the township's traffic consultant, took a look at 18 roadway alignment alternatives developed by an advisory roundtable responsible for crafting an environmental impact statement for the bypass, at the request of Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh.
"I wanted the professionals to take a look at the alternatives and find out which ones would be best from West Windsor's perspective," the mayor said. "I think it is important we take a proactive posture to get the bypass we want. I want to be able to go to the state Department of Transportation and recommend they build a configuration that best suits our needs, but I want to make sure we're supporting the right one."
The DOT is expected to decide on its preferred alignment by August.
Township Engineer Jim Parvesse analyzed Mr. Davies' findings with the help of the mayor, Councilwoman Alison Miller, Planning Board member Steve Decter and Penns Neck resident David Parris and found that three alternatives, known as B-1, A and A-1, all would be beneficial to nearby roads and neighborhoods. The alignments include the following:
Alternate B-1 includes the original alignment of the Millstone Bypass, which would run northwest from Route 571 along the Millstone River, crossing Route 1 near Harrison Street and
running near the Delaware & Raritan Canal to Washington Road with a spur to Harrison Street, with the addition of a Vaughn Drive connector road.
Alternate A includes the original alignment of the Millstone Bypass combined with depressing Route 1 underneath Washington Road, and a Vaughn Drive connector road.
Alternate A-1 includes the original Millstone Bypass, Route 1 cut below Washington Road, a Vaughn Drive connector road and several service roads on either side of Route 1.
The mayor presented this information to the Township Council on Jan. 13 and met with some resistance.
Councilwoman Rae Roeder objected to any change in the township's long-standing support of the original alignment of the Millstone Bypass and expressed concern that options A and A-1
would be too expensive to construct.
Councilwoman Kristin Appelget expressed similar sentiments and insisted the township needs to maintain a unified stand.
"What West Windsor has done well in the past is to speak with a unified voice," Ms. Appelget said. "The environmental study is coming to a close and we need to maintain our unanimity. It would be horrible to lose that at this critical juncture."
Several council members suggested holding a joint meeting of the Township Council and township Planning Board to allow everyone to discuss the options and get public input.
But on Wednesday, the Planning Board decided a joint meeting was not necessary. Instead, it will take up the issue itself at its Feb. 5 meeting.
"Members of council are welcome to attend," said Marvin Gardner, Planning Board chair. "We're going to hear a presentation from the mayor about the alternatives and then consider whether or not to support his recommendation. The public can comment as well."
A draft environmental impact statement, evaluating the 18 bypass alternatives, is expected in April.
The DOT commissioned the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University to conduct the EIS and study possible solutions to traffic congestion in the Penns Neck area
after former Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the agency's recommendation favoring the Millstone Bypass in 2000.
An advisory roundtable of area government leaders, citizens and other officials has since been convened to assist Rutgers in crafting the EIS and building a consensus on the proper solution to congestion in the Penns Neck area.
©Packet Online 2003
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Millstone Bypass impact study delayed four months
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 12/13/2002
More time needed to review environmental and historic impacts
A draft environmental study of alternatives to the Millstone Bypass has been delayed four months to give more time to review environmental and historic impacts.
The release of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluating 18 roadway alignment alternatives to the former state-endorsed roadway was expected in late December, but has been delayed until April, said Jon Carnegie, senior project manager with the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute at Rutgers University.
The state Department of Transportation, which commissioned Rutgers to study possible solutions to traffic congestion in the Penns Neck area around Route 1 after former Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the agency's recommendation favoring the Millstone Bypass, is now expected to announce its preferred alignment by August.
The schedule change follows outcries in October by conservation advocates that review of environmental and historic impacts was being rushed through, a charge a DOT spokesman called "completely groundless."
On Tuesday night, some members of an advisory roundtable to the Rutgers study team again pressed for greater attention to the environment, calling for an inventory of potentially endangered plants and wildlife, and a review of possible impacts from known contaminants on the Sarnoff campus in West Windsor Township.
Richard Barrett of Sensible Transportation Options Partnership asked the Rutgers team to take "the high road" and conduct a habitat assessment of rare plants and animals in accord with recommendations from a 2001 report commissioned by the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.
Mr. Carnegie said the roundtable had agreed at an earlier meeting not to include such a study in the EIS process and opted to stick by that decision.
Mr. Barrett called the decision not to conduct the habitat assessment "arbitrary."
"We thought we were in a progressive process here," he said. "I think even under the guidelines we have set up they should be taken into consideration."
Also on Tuesday, Peggy Killmer of Millstone Bypass Alert brought to the roundtable's attention a 1999 report by the state Department of Environmental Protection detailing trichloroethylene contamination on the Sarnoff property, and questioned why the roundtable and the public weren't notified of the problem earlier.
Mr. Carnegie said the study team has been aware of the contamination and that it would be included in the roundtable's planned discussion on contaminated materials and sites.
Ms. Killmer said she worried that construction of an east-side connector road linking Route 571 with Route 1 through the Sarnoff property, one of the components of the 18 roadway alternatives, could stir up the contaminants and release them into the surrounding waterways and groundwater.
"This is a very, very serious situation," she said. "We had no idea this soil was contaminated."
Ms. Killmer said taxpayers could be billed for cleanup of contamination that the DEP has deemed Sarnoff's responsibility if a state roadway ends up being run through the technology campus.
Walter Schmidlin, Sarnoff's director of facilities management and a roundtable member, said the DEP has characterized the contamination as a "regional issue," not from dumping by Sarnoff.
Sarnoff has been voluntarily treating contaminated groundwater through carbon filtering since 1983, Mr. Schmidlin said.
In 2000, Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the DOT's recommendation favoring the Millstone Bypass.
The advisory roundtable has been convened to assist Rutgers in building consensus on a solution to traffic woes in the Penns Neck area following more than a decade of controversy surrounding the former Millstone Bypass.
The bypass was a 2.3-mile roadway that would have run northwest from Route 571 along the Millstone River, crossed Route 1 near Harrison Street and run along the Delaware & Raritan Canal to Washington Road, with a spur to Harrison Street.
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Environment panel joins effort to slow bypass review
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 10/18/2002
DOT denies claims that process is being rushed.
The Princeton Environmental Commission on Wednesday night agreed to join with conservation advocates in urging the state Department of Transportation and state and local officials not to rush the review of environmental and historic impacts from alternatives to the Millstone Bypass.
By a unanimous motion, the commission agreed to sign a letter expected to be mailed today by Millstone Bypass Alert, a coalition of several area advocacy groups, that charges the DOT with "disregarding the environment as we round the last curve on the road" to a roadway solution to traffic congestion in the Penns Neck area.
"The run to create these revisions to Route 1 was stopped dead in its tracks by large numbers of people, including the Princeton Environmental Commission, who wanted the environmental impacts to be considered," said commission Vice Chair David Breithaupt.
"All the focus appears to be solely on multiple permutations of the layout of the roads," Mr. Breithaupt continued, "and none appear to be discussed in relation to mitigation of environmental impacts."
DOT spokesman Micah Rasmussen said flatly that the Millstone Bypass Alert charge is "not true" and "completely groundless.
"Neither the department nor anyone else is rushing this process," Mr. Rasmussen said. "The roundtable will have whatever time is necessary to review all of the data and all the criteria and come up with the most appropriate recommendations."
The Rutgers' Transportation Policy Institute, which the DOT commissioned last year to prepare an environmental impact statement in cooperation with a community advisory roundtable, recently unveiled 18 roadway alternatives, from which the DOT is expected to select one by April.
In 2000, Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the DOT's recommendation favoring the bypass, a 2.3-mile roadway that would have run northwest from Route 571 along the Millstone River, crossed Route 1 near Harrison Street and run along the Delaware & Raritan Canal to Washington Road, with a spur to Harrison Street.
According to Millstone Bypass Alert, approximately a year has gone into developing the roadway alternatives, but just a month will be devoted to environmental, cultural and historical review before a draft EIS is expected to be released in late December, with a public hearing on the alternatives slated for January.
The letter is expected to be sent today to the governor, the DOT commissioner, congressional representatives and state and local officials.
According to the letter, the EIS process has now "shifted into overdrive" at the risk of the "crucial part of this process being eviscerated.
"This will potentially result in a waste of taxpayer dollars," the letter goes on, "and further undermine our faith in government's ability to make a positive contribution to our lives."
According to Richard Barrett of Sensible Transportation Options Partnership, a member of the umbrella Bypass Alert group, the EIS process should not be open-ended but the April deadline should be extended. There is concern "that what should be a very substantive analysis will be short-circuited because of time constraints," Mr. Barrett said.
"We've spent a long time in the roundtable discussion on road-based mobility," he said. "What we haven't done is put those through the filter of the reason we're doing the EIS, which is the historic, cultural and environmental resources in the area."
But according to West Windsor Township Council Vice President Jackie Alberts, who has participated in the roundtable process, "People's specific environmental and historic concerns have been behind specific road considerations. To say a lot of time has been spent on roads and not the environment is an illusion because that's what created those road configurations."
©Packet Online 2002
Participation is not the same as attendance
To the editor:
In an article appearing Oct. 18, The Packet quotes West Windsor Council Vice President Jackie Alberts as defending the time spent on the environment in the Penns Neck EIS roundtable process and describes her as someone "who has participated in the roundtable process."
Ms. Alberts has the right to her opinion, which may be based on reports from her colleagues. Readers of The Packet also have the right to know, however, that Ms. Alberts is not a member of the roundtable and does not regularly attend roundtable meetings, as do many members of the public.
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Princeton wants bypass that distributes traffic evenly
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 10/11/2002
Subcommittee endorses creating a below-grade underpass of Washington Road for
Route 1 that would cost between $15 million and $25 million.
Princeton Planning Board members on Tuesday outlined preferences for a future roadway alternative to the former Millstone Bypass that they said should be put in place to distribute traffic evenly into and through Princeton.
The Circulation Subcommittee of the Princeton Regional Planning Board met to draft a recommendation to the Rutgers Transportation Policy Institute, which has been commissioned by the state Department of Transportation to resolve the longstanding stalemate over the bypass and congestion in the Penns Neck area.
Last week, the Rutgers team unveiled 18 roadway alternatives that comprise varying configurations of several basic features, one of which the DOT is expected to select as the locally preferred alternative by April.
Before a preferred alignment is selected, a draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released in late December, with a public hearing to follow in January, to gather testimony on the alternatives.
The Rutgers team also invited members of the public last week to submit input on the 18 alternatives.
On Tuesday, Princeton Borough mayor and subcommittee member Marvin Reed, who has sat on an advisory roundtable convened in June 2001 to help evaluate alternatives, said that if no action is taken by 2028 almost every intersection in Princeton will be glutted with traffic.
"Without any building we are going to be absolutely gridlocked with congestion," Mayor Reed said.
The mayor added, "I am convinced that whatever solution comes out will be much more extensive and much more expensive" than previously considered by the DOT.
One component the circulation subcommittee endorsed - Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road - would cost between $15 million and $25 million, Mayor Reed said.
The subcommittee pointed to several other features it plans to recommend to the Rutgers team that would meet Princeton's objective in selecting a roadway alternative. That objective, Mayor Reed has said, is that traffic entering Princeton be evenly distributed along the three major intersections of Nassau Street at Harrison Street and Washington and Alexander roads.
A preferred feature is a connector road linking the existing Vaughn Drive to Route 571 in
West Windsor just to the west of the Northeast Corridor rail line.
Mayor Reed said "it seems increasingly important for Princeton to insist" on such a road, because it would help distribute traffic between Route 571 and the Princeton Junction Train Station, Carnegie Center and Toll Brothers' 1,165-unit Estates at Princeton Junction housing development planned for Bear Brook Road.
A Vaughn Drive connector road would alleviate traffic pressure on Route 1 intersections.
The subcommittee also supported a "diamond" rather than a "cloverleaf" interchange at Route 1 and Harrison Street and a connector road linking Canal Pointe Boulevard at Alexander Road with Washington Road to the west of Route 1.
Of the 18 alternatives, the subcommittee seemed most to support variations of what is referred to by the Penns Neck Area study team as Alternative D. It meets all of the preferred criteria except the Canal Pointe Boulevard connector road.
Like many of the proposed alignments, Alternative D includes an east-side connector road linking Route 571 near the Northeast Corridor line to Route 1 through the middle of the Sarnoff Corp. property, and a west-side connector road from Route 1 to Harrison Street near the Delaware & Raritan Canal.
Alternative D also calls for frontage roads along Route 1 on the east and west.
Mayor Reed said this alternative provides a "logical" division of the Sarnoff property that roughly coincides with the division of land to be developed by the technology company and that owned by Princeton University for its long-term growth needs.
Alternative D also provides for an "irregular path" from Route 571 to Route 1 that would serve to slow the flow of traffic into Princeton.
Mayor Reed said the current review of alternatives has shown that the bypass alignment preferred by the DOT and still endorsed by officials in West Windsor Township "will not work."
The DOT commissioned the Rutgers institute last year after former Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the state agency's recommendation favoring the bypass, a 2.3-mile roadway alignment first submitted by the DOT in 1986.
That bypass would run northwest from Route 571 along the Millstone River, crossed Route 1 south of Harrison Street and continued along the Delaware & Raritan Canal to link with Washington Road, with a spur to Harrison Street.
©Packet Online 2002
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Penns Neck EIS: Route 1 in a Tunnel?
More traffic is on the way. Much more-and one of the areas to be hardest hit is the stretch of Route 1 between the Plainsboro and West Windsor borders.
Improvements have been made to address the coming deluge, with overpasses being built at Meadow, Alexander, Scudders Mill, and College roads, but one major source of traffic tie-ups still remains-the troika of lights on Route 1 at Harrison Street, Fisher Place, and Washington Road.
Projections recently released by -the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute of Rutgers University as part of the Penns Neck Area Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) show that the number of jobs in Plainsboro and West Windsor will jump by 83 percent in the next 20 years and the resulting traffic is bound to make things worse. The EIS study will ultimately determine whether the three lights will be eliminated, and what will be built in their place.
Area residents were presented with a smorgasbord of alternatives -18 in total-during a day-long in-progress review of the Penns Neck EIS at the New Jersey Hospital Association on Alexander Road in West Windsor on September 30.
Options range from doing nothing at all, to tunneling Route 1 under Washington Road; building an overpass; or constructing side access roads parallel to the highway. Also proposed is a the so-called Vaughn Drive connector road that would extend Vaughn Drive to run between Alexander Road, through the Princeton Junction train station, to Washington Road.
" There will be more jobs in the primary study area than in downtown Newark," said Jon Carnegie of the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute, which sponsored the event. The institute has been working the last year with the EIS Partners Roundtable to come up with a plan. The Roundtable is a 32-member group representing sometimes conflicting community, historic preservation, environmental, corporate, retail, and government constituencies.
It is estimated that there were a total of 46,257 jobs in businesses along the Route 1 corridor in Plainsboro and West Windsor as of 2001. Based on planning information from both townships, it's projected that the number of jobs will almost double to 84,445 by the year 2028. It's also projected that by 2028 the primary study area which encompasses Plainsboro, West Windsor, and the Princeton will have 97,042 jobs by 2028.
The population of the primary study area is also expected to in crease, although not as dramatically as the employment numbers According to statistics, the population in 2001 was 76,777 and will increase by 12 percent to 85,693 by 2028.
Add the traffic generated by these population increases to inter sections that are already functioning poorly, and there are some real problems. According to Carnegie the three intersections now all currently function above capacity during peak traffic periods, and the average Route 1 delay can be as high as 2.1 minutes to get through the three intersections.
The delays were much worse or the east-west roads. The average delay during peak traffic periods on Washington Road at Route 1 range from two to five minutes with a maximum observed delay of 11.2 minutes. The average peak delay on Harrison Street range from 1.4 to 8.2 minutes with a maximum observed delay of 11.8 minutes.
"If growth and development trends continue as expected," Carnegie said, "it is reasonable to conclude that these conditions will worsen."
Area officials and residents say that based on those numbers, road improvements must be made. "It's very difficult for me to believe that they are going to select the no-build option," says David Parris, a member of the Partners Roundtable. "When looking at what's been approved (to be built) we have to look at doing something."
'We cannot expect any more that we are going to see the Millstone Bypass as we originally supported it" says Mayor Shing-Fe Hsueh. "We are now going to have to look at the hard data to see what is going to fit based on environmental concerns and the impact on historical sites."
Regardless of the plan chosen, he adds, there are three issue that must be addressed. One is that the Vaughn Drive connector is constructed. The second is that whatever is chosen cannot affect the Sarnoff Corporations approved plans for a 3-million-square-foot office complex on it's property in Penns Neck.
"Thirdly, we have to make sure Penns Neck is preserved and the traffic is taken off of Washington Road," says Hsueh. "That road is not designed to carry that level of traffic, and it is also a quality of life issue to the residents who live on that road."
Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu says he is pleased to see the process moving forward. "My main concern is that something gets done. These are improvements that are desperately needed. The traffic problems are not going to go away, and, from a selfish standpoint, my community is impacted, because the traffic is backing up into Plainsboro."
"I'm encouraged that it seems this thing isn't going to drag on forever and a timeline has been set that needs to be met," Cantu adds.
Last month, Governor McGreevey said that he wants the EIS process completed by April, 2003. The current schedule seems to meet that goal. A draft version of the EIS, which will list preferred options and likely also dissenting opinions, is expected to be released in December, followed by a public hearing in January. Comments will be accepted until the middle of February and the final EIS is scheduled for release in April.
In addition to seven main alternatives (and associated sub-options), a"no-build" alternative is included in the mix currently being looked at, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. This baseline scenario will serve as the benchmark against which all of the build alternatives will be compared. No-build considers only routine maintenance and currently planned improvements to roadways in the primary (five-mile radius) and secondary (20-mile radius) study areas that are likely to be build by 2028.
The seven other alternatives on the table to deal with these demands are as follows:
A. Bury Route 1. AS with the other alternatives, these, teh A alternatives, have variations. All A alternatives, however, place Route 1 in a cut, and most: provide frontage roads. All provide a new grade-separated interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street, and east-side connector road at the northern edge of the Sarnoff property along the Millstone River, and a Harrison Street connector road west of Route 1 between the D&R Canal and Route 1.
All A Alternatives provide direct access to and from Route 1 through either loop or diamond interchanges in the vicinity of Harrison Street. One A alternative removes all access between Washington Road and Route 1 and provides no frontage roads. Other A alternatives provide direct access to Route 1 southbound; access from Route 1 northbound and southbound and to Route 1 northbound is provided via frontage road connections to Harrison.
The A alternatives, like many other plans, includes the Vaughn Drive connector road.
B. The Millstone Bypass. These, the B alternatives, are similar to the former preferred alignment for the Millstone Bypass. Route 1 remains at grade and the traffic signals at Washington Road, Fisher Place, and Harrison Street are removed and replaced with a grade-separated loop interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street. East-west access across Route 1 at Washington Road is eliminated.
Unlike the A alternatives, the B alternatives do not include frontage roads between Harrison Street and Washington Road. Instead B and B-1 connect:Harrison Street at Washington Road with a west-side connector road across Princeton University property, in the vicinity of the D&R Canal. In B-2, a similar connector road-between Harrison Street and Washington Road is aligned further to the east and extends south to Alexander.
C. A scaled down Millstone Bypass. Similar to alternative B, C alternatives provide an at-grade Route 1 and removes the traffic signals at Washington Road, Fisher Place, and Harrison Street. The C alternatives include a diamond interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street and a 2-way frontage road running parallel to Route I on the west side, between Washington Road and Harrison Street.
One C alternative provides a west-east connector road between Alexander and Washington Roads, while another does not. The C alternative does not include the east-west connector road, through Sarnoff property, that is a main feature of the original Millstone Bypass configuration, and which is a prominent feature in B alternatives. C alternatives also make use of a Vaughn Drive extension.
D. The hybrid. D alternatives bury a portion of Route 1 at Washington Road, provide frontage roads between Washington Road and a new Harrison Street interchange, and make use of an east side connector road through Sarnoff property. The configuration envisioned in D plans puts the east-side connector as farther to the south, and farther away from the Millstone River than does the original Millstone River Bypass. D also puts a connector road from Route 1 to Harrison Street.
E. Another hybrid. E alternatives also bury a portion of Route 1, cut east-to-west across Sarnoff property, include a Harrison Street connector, and make use of a Vaughn Drive extension. A distinctive feature of E alternatives is that they put the east-west connector road the southern edge of Sarnoff property.
F. No throughput to Harrison Street. Like other plans, F alternatives include a Route 1 cut, a grade-separated loop interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street, an east-side connector road, and a Harrison Street connector road. The big difference is that F alternatives prohibit through access from the east-side connector road to the west-side Harrison Street connector road. The elimination of through access at Harrison Street was designed to maintain an equal distribution of east-west traffic into and out of the Princeton.
In F alternatives, Route 1 traffic into Princeton would use the Harrison interchange, while east-west traffic would use Washington.
G. The minimally-invasive plan. The G alternatives involve working with lane changes and traffic signals to tame Route 1 traffic. Alternative G calls for turning lane modifications on all Route 1/Harrison Street and Route 1/Washington Road approaches, including center turn lanes on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street. The traffic signal at Fisher Place is removed and Fisher Place becomes a right-in/right-out intersection.
Alternative G-1 is similar to G, but replaces center left-turn lanes with jug handles at Washington Road and Harrison Street. The signal at Fisher Place is removed and Fisher Place becomes a right-in/right-out intersection.
Alternative G-2 eliminates traffic signals on Route 1 at Harrison Street, Washington Road, and Fisher Place. Each crossing becomes a right-in/right-out intersection. This option eliminates east-west access across Route 1.
The history of the project goes back some 20 years, when West Windsor, Mercer County, and the state agreed on plan- called the Millstone Bypass-that would remove traffic from Washington Road, rerouting Route 571 from the railroad bridge near the Ellsworth's shopping center onto a new road through the Sarnoff property and over a Route 1 overpass near Harrison Street.
In 2000, the DOT completed an environmental assessment that recommended the construction of the Millstone Bypass. But then Governor Christie Whitman, citing environmental concerns, threw out the assessment, and ordered the EIS-a two-year federal study to review all alternatives.
The Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute was brought in to develop a process for performing the study. The Partners Roundtable was then formed, and met 24 times since June 2001 to develop the alternatives and sub-alternatives.
The Roundtable will meet next on Thursday, October 10, in the community room at the Princeton Township Municipal Complex, 400 Witherspoon Street, at 5 p.m. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 23, at the West Windsor Senior Citizen Center at 5 p.m.
copyright West Windsor and Plainsboro News, October 4, 2002
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Eighteen bypass alternatives are unveiled to public
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 10/01/2002
A selection by the state of a preferred plan expected by April.
Transportation consultants from Rutgers University unveiled 18 roadway alternatives Monday that are under consideration to resolve the longstanding stalemate over the former Millstone Bypass.
The Rutgers' Transportation Policy Institute, which held the day-long open house at the New Jersey Hospital Association building on Alexander Road in West Windsor, presented 18 variations of seven broad alignment schemes.
By April, the state Department of Transportation is expected to select one of those plans as the locally preferred alternative.
The Rutgers institute was commissioned by the DOT last year to prepare an environmental impact statement to address traffic congestion in Penns Neck after former Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the state agency's recommendation favoring the Millstone Bypass, a 2.3-mile roadway alignment first submitted by the DOT in 1986.
The former bypass would have run northwest from Route 571 along the Millstone River, crossed Route 1 south of Harrison Street and continued along the Delaware & Raritan Canal to link with Washington Road, with a spur to Harrison Street.
The 18 alternatives presented Monday comprise varying configurations of several basic features, including Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road; a Vaughn Drive connector road; frontage roads along Route 1; and connector roads to the east and/or west of Route 1 linking the highway with Route 571, Harrison Street, Washington Road and Alexander Road.
A configuration similar to the former Millstone Bypass is among the alternatives the DOT will consider as it prepares the final EIS for release in April.
Before a preferred alignment is selected, a draft EIS is expected to be released in late December, with a public hearing to gather testimony on the alternatives planned for January.
Several dozen area officials attended the open house Monday, including Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed, who said that whichever alternative is selected, it must evenly disperse traffic along the three major intersections of Nassau Street at Harrison Street and Washington and Alexander roads.
"We accept the fact there will be increased congestion, if it can be evenly distributed," Mayor Reed said.
Also, the mayor said the EIS has generated more accurate traffic and demographic estimates than the ones the DOT used in the past.
According to estimates, employment in the study area around Penns Neck is expected to grow 68 percent by 2028, to 97,000 from 57,500 jobs in 2001.
Eighty percent of employment in the study area, or 46,000 jobs, currently is concentrated in West Windsor and Plainsboro townships.
Currently, Route 1 intersections at Washington Road, Fisher Place and Harrison Street function above capacity at peak commuting hours, and conditions will worsen if growth and development trends continue, according to estimates.
Mayor Reed said he and others from Princeton are now convinced that the alignment chosen by DOT will have to include Route 1 as a below-grade cut-in, and that the former bypass alignment is "no longer viable. It won't work."
West Windsor Township Council Vice President Jackie Alberts said her municipality still supports the original Millstone Bypass proposal, echoing statements made last week by West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh that the EIS process has shown the bypass to be "defensible," with mitigation of environmental impacts possible.
Ms. Alberts said the EIS process to-date is "in effect a no-build process.
"Every day that we discuss this matter is a no-build day for West Windsor residents facing traffic congestion," Ms. Alberts said. "At the moment we need to start pruning down these wild alternatives that some groups are proposing to slow down the process."
Walter Schmidlin, Sarnoff Corp.'s director of facilities management, would not comment on which if any alternatives Sarnoff prefers, but he said one plan, which would run a connector road along the southern border of the technology company's property, would be detrimental to residents of Fisher Place and Sarnoff.
"We don't think it's the right thing to do for the region," Mr. Schmidlin said.
Other alignments under consideration show connector roads cutting through the Sarnoff property to the north and across the middle.
Mary Penney of the Central New Jersey Sierra Club said the Route 1 cut-in alternative would minimize land needed for the new roadway as well as impacts on environmental, historic and cultural resources in the region, but she said "all the alternatives definitely have to be looked at."
Ms. Penney said further study on impacts is needed, and said mass-transit options should be part of the selected alignment.
©Packet Online 2002
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Penns Neck bypass plans to get public review
By: David Campbell , Staff Writer 09/27/2002
A progress report on a controversial road realignment proposal.
A Rutgers University policy institute commissioned by the state Department of Transportation to assess alternatives to the former Millstone Bypass will hold a daylong open house Monday in West Windsor to share its progress to date.
"The purpose in a nutshell is to bring the general public up to speed on where the project team is and where we've come since the scoping hearings were held last December," said Jon Carnegie, senior project manager with Rutgers' Transportation Policy Institute.
In March 2001, the DOT announced plans to commission the institute and professional conflict-resolution specialists to prepare an environmental impact statement to address traffic congestion in Penns Neck after former Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the state agency's recommendation favoring the Millstone Bypass, a 2.3-mile roadway alignment first submitted by the DOT in 1986.
The mediated study is the DOT's latest attempt to resolve controversy over the bypass, which would have run northwest from Route 571 along the Millstone River, crossed Route 1 south of Harrison Street and continued along the Delaware & Raritan Canal to link with Washington Road, with a spur to Harrison Street.
Mediators gathered public testimony last December, and since June 2001 an advisory roundtable of area community leaders and policy advocates has been working toward consensus on the nature and scope of the problem, the goals and objectives for the EIS and transportation alternatives to be considered.
On Monday, the Rutgers team plans to hold a progress review at the New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center on Alexander Road in West Windsor from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with presentations scheduled for 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The all-day open house will give the public the chance to ask questions on the EIS process and where it is to date, including seven roadway alternatives that have been developed by the advisory roundtable.
A second progress review is expected for late November in advance of the completion of the draft EIS around late December so that review of the document by the public is more "expeditious and informed," Mr. Carnegie said.
A public hearing on the draft EIS, at which formal testimony will be taken on the alternatives, is planned for January. The DOT will then use public testimony and the draft document to prepare the final EIS, expected in April, which will detail a single preferred alignment for the Penns Neck area.
Alan Goodheart of Sensible Transportation Options Partnership, a local advocacy group that opposed the bypass and advocated for a thorough environmental review with an EIS, said the roundtable mediation process "started out very rough, but it has gotten a little smoother" and called it "a positive experience."
Mr. Goodheart complained of some behind-the-scenes politicking by some on behalf of certain outcomes. He would not provide specifics, but cited signs posted along WashingtonRoad in West Windsor advocating the bypass.
West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said of the roundtable, "We went through a lot of bumpy roads, and we're still trying to make clear the processes that will be undertaken," and noted that politics, while unavoidable under the circumstances, had been kept to a minimum.
Mayor Hsueh said the township, which supported the DOT's preferred alignment before the EIS began, still believes the bypass is the best alternative.
The mayor said the township's position is "defensible," as it would protect the Penns Neck neighborhood and surrounding historic sites. Given its relation to Sarnoff and Princeton University property off Route 1, it also would enhance the economic and cultural well-being of the region, he said.
Contrary to what opponents of the bypass have been arguing for years, Mayor Hsueh said he believes environmental impacts to the Millstone River and Delaware & Raritan Canal can be mitigated, but that he awaits further findings from the EIS process.
Mr. Goodheart said an alternative that would include Route 1 in a below-grade underpass of Washington Road, which would cross over the highway at its present grade, is "a good one, a very good one," though "not a cheap solution.
"This is the context of our lives and it's very important, which is why I've been doing this for seven years," he said. "It does have its moments of fun, but it's very hard work."
Sandra Brillhart, executive director of the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association and a roundtable member, said the TMA's focus is on transit strategies that would accompany whichever alignment is selected, such as bicycle and pedestrian pathways, mass transit and demand-management initiatives.
Ms. Brillhart said the alternative most closely resembling the DOT preferred alignment would be "radically" different from the original due to accompanying transit strategies.
She said the roundtable "started out kind of bumpy" but has since run much more smoothly.
"I think it has made all the divergent parties aware of each other's viewpoints," Ms. Brillhart said.
©Packet Online 2002
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Plotting the Millstone Bypass
A plan to alleviate traffic jams on Route 1 -- and on roads that feed into Route 1 -- in the Penns Neck area of West Windsor is closer to reality. The Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute of Rutgers University, operating at the request of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, has published a newsletter providing detailed information on alternatives arrived at during the course of nearly 18 months of meetings. A final recommendation is to be made in April, 2003.
In these meetings, 32 members of a Partners Roundtable, representing sometimes conflicting community, historic preservation, environmental, corporate, retail, and government constituencies, have come up with 18 road-based alternatives for the five-mile radius around the Route 1 and Washington Road intersection in the Penns Neck section of West Windsor. These 18 alternatives have been bundled into seven groups based on similar characteristics.
Diagrams of these alternatives are the centerpiece of a day-long in-progress review on Monday, September 30 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center on Alexander Road. Presentations, providing more detail, take place at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. A videotape of the 11 a.m. presentation is available for viewing throughout the day.
The roundtable approach was initiated by then governor Christie Whitman, after the DOT's initial preferred alignment for the bypass was decried by opponents as an environmentally-harmful fait-accompli presented with little community input. Along with the Partners Roundtable comes a required full-scale environmental impact study.
"Our assignment is proving to be challenging as anticipated," says Martin E. Robins, director of the Voorhees Institute. "But it is also demonstrating the enormous potential of planning in a public context that embraces diversity and encourages discussion."
In addition to the seven build alternatives, the Penns Neck Area Environmental Impact Statement (Penns Neck EIS) includes a "no-build" alternative, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. This baseline scenario will serve as the benchmark against which all of the build alternatives will be compared. No-build considers only routine maintenance and currently planned improvements to roadways in the primary (five-mile radius) and secondary (20-mile radius) study areas that are likely to be built by 2028 as based on local and regional capital improvement plans.
Demographic and development data upon which the Penns Neck EIS is relying forecast a 13 percent population growth in the primary area along with a 68 percent employment growth. Employment in Plainsboro Township is expected to increase 50 percent -- from 27,000 in 2001 to 40,500 in 2028 -- and employment in West Windsor Township is expected to grow from 19,000 to 44,000 in the same period, resulting in "a substantial increase in travel demand."
The seven alternatives on the table to deal with these demands are as follows:
A. Bury Route 1. As with other alternatives, the A alternatives have variations. All A alternatives, however, place Route 1 in a cut, and most provide frontage roads. All provide a new grade-separated interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street, and an east-side connector road at the northern edge of the Sarnoff property along the Millstone River, and a Harrison Street connector road west of Route 1 between the D & R Canal and Route 1.
All A alternatives provide direct access to and from Route 1 through either loop or diamond interchanges in the vicinity of Harrison Street. One A alternative removes all access between Washington Road and Route 1 and provides no frontage roads.
Other A alternatives provide direct access to Route 1 southbound; access from Route 1 northbound and southbound and to Route 1 northbound is provided via frontage road connections to the Harrison Street interchange. And one A alternative provides direct access to Route 1 northbound and to Route 1 southbound via frontage road connections at the Harrison Street interchange.
The A alternatives, like many other plans, bring Vaughn Drive into the equation, extending that road north from its current terminus in the Princeton Junction train station parking lot to Washington Road in the vicinity of the Amtrak bridge in Princeton Junction.
B. Back to the Millstone Bypass. The B alternatives are similar to the former preferred alignment for the Millstone Bypass. Route 1 remains at grade and the traffic signals at Washington Road, Fisher Place, and Harrison Street are removed and replaced with a grade-separated loop interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street. East-west access across Route 1 at Washington Road is eliminated.
Unlike the A alternatives, the B alternatives do not include frontage roads between Harrison Street and Washington Road. Instead B and B 1. connect Harrison Street at Washington Road with a west-side connector road across Princeton University property, in the vicinity of the D & R Canal. In B 2., a similar connector road between Harrison Street and Washington Road is aligned further to the east and extends south to Alexander Road. All B alternatives include an east-side connector road, but do not include an extension of Vaughn Road.
C. A scaled down Millstone Bypass. Similar to alternative B, C alternatives provide an at-grade Route 1 and remove the traffic signals at Washington Road, Fisher Place, and Harrison Street. The C alternatives include a diamond interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street and a 2-way frontage road running parallel to Route 1 on the west side, between Washington Road and Harrison Street.
One C alternative provides a west-east connector road between Alexander and Washington Roads, while another does not. The C alternative does not include the east-west connector road, through Sarnoff property, that is a main feature of the original Millstone Bypass configuration, and which is a prominent feature in B alternatives.
C alternatives do make use of a Vaughn Drive extension.
D. The hybrid. D alternatives bury a portion of Route 1 at Washington Road, provide frontage roads between Washington Road and a new Harrison Street interchange, and make use of an east-side connector road through Sarnoff property. The configuration envisioned in D plans puts the east-side connector farther to the south, and farther away from the Millstone River than does the original Millstone River Bypass. D also puts a connector road from Route 1 to Harrison Street.
One D plan buries Route 1 only at Washington Road, while another extends the length of the cut from Varsity Drive to Fisher Place and provides connections over Route 1 at all three roads.
A Vaughn Drive extension is included in D alternatives.
E. Another hybrid. E alternatives also bury a portion of Route 1, cut east-to-west across Sarnoff property, include a Harrison Street connector, and make use of a Vaughn Drive extension. A distinctive feature of E alternatives is that they put the east-west connector road on the southern edge of Sarnoff property.
F. No throughput to Harrison Street. Like other plans, F alternatives include a Route 1 cut, a grade-separated loop interchange in the vicinity of Harrison Street, an east-side connector road, and a Harrison Street connector road. The big difference is that F alternatives prohibit through access from the east-side connector road to the west-side Harrison Street connector road. The elimination of through access at Harrison Street was designed to maintain an equal distribution of east-west traffic into and out of the Princeton.
In F alternatives, Route 1 traffic accessing Princeton would use the Harrison Street interchange, while east-west traffic would use Washington Road.
G. The minimally-invasive plan. The G alternatives involve working with lane changes and traffic signals to tame Route 1 traffic. Alternative G calls for turning lane modifications on all Route and Harrison Street and Route 1 and Washington Road approaches, including center turn lanes on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street. The traffic signal at Fisher Place is removed and Fisher Place becomes a right-in/right-out intersection.
Alternative G-1 is similar to G, but replaces center left-turn lanes with jug handles at Washington Road and Harrison Street. The signal at Fisher Place is removed and Fisher Place becomes a right-in, right-out intersection.
Alternative G-2 eliminates traffic signals on Route 1 at Harrison Street, Washington Road, and Fisher Place. Each crossing becomes a right-in, right-out intersection. This option eliminates east-west access across Route 1.
The Voorhees Policy Institute, in its latest newsletter, states that the Penns Neck area study is entering the critical phase of developing the draft EIS. The project team is now conducting traffic, environmental, and other technical studies to gauge the impacts of each of the above alternatives. Each category of analysis will identify and quantify the impacts for each alternative and compare it to the no-build alternative.
Goals and objectives include protecting and enhancing the integrity of residential neighborhoods; improving access, mobility, and safety for all modes of transportation, and reducing congestion; protecting and enhancing the environment, including natural resources and open space; protecting and enhancing historic and archaeological resources; maintaining the viability of institutional and business communities; and recognizing the interrelationships between land use and transportation.
The Penns Neck Area EIS team is operating under a timetable that states another in-progress review will be made public in November, and a draft EIS in December. A public hearing is scheduled for January. Public input is to take place through February, and a final decision is due in April.
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the September 25, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
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Planners' OK clears way for land deal
By: Gwen Runkle , Staff Writer 08/23/2002
Sarnoff subdivision paves way for Princeton University purchase
WEST WINDSOR - The Planning Board unanimously approved a subdivision of Sarnoff Corp.'s Route 1 property Wednesday night, paving the way for an agreement between the company and Princeton University to be finalized.
The subdivision splits Sarnoff's 332.5-acre tract into two parcels - a 250.9-acre section to be kept by Sarnoff and an 81.6-acre section along Route 1 and the Millstone River to be sold to Princeton University.
Sarnoff and the university struck a tentative deal for the sale in October 2001. The deal was contingent on the Planning Board's approval of Sarnoff's general development plan for a 3 million-square-foot technology campus, which the board granted in June.
"The Planning Board's approval of the subdivision was a significant step forward," said Walter Schmidlin, Sarnoff's director of facilities management. "But it won't be until the board passes a resolution of memorialization that things will really start to proceed.
"We hope to finalize the agreement with the university sometime this year," he continued. "But it could take several months for the subdivision to be memorialized. Our general development plan was approved June 20 and it's just coming up for memorialization Sept. 4."
At Wednesday's meeting, although the Planning Board ultimately approved the subdivision without a dissenting vote, only a few board members, such as Ed Steele and Bill Benfer, spoke out strongly in support of it. Instead, most board members peppered representatives of both Sarnoff and the university with questions, particularly about what the university planned to do with the parcel it is expected to buy.
"A lot of residents in this community are concerned about whether Princeton University plans to change the use of the property if it takes it over," said Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh. "Would that happen?"
"When we announced we were entering into an agreement with Sarnoff, we stated clearly that our interest in purchasing the lands was to ensure Princeton University can accommodate its academic, research and residential needs over the very long term," said Pam Hersh, director of community and state government affairs for the university.
Currently, the entire Sarnoff property, the university's piece included, is zoned for research and development.
"We have no immediate plans for development," Ms. Hersh added, while stressing that the university does not own the land yet and that her responses were based on preliminary conversations only.
She also indicated the university would be willing to talk with the township about using the land it is expected to purchase for temporary athletic fields for the township.
In addition, some board members questioned whether Sarnoff and the university were in agreement on such transportation issues as the Millstone Bypass, which could run through both subdivided pieces of land.
Sarnoff's attorney, Kevin Moore, and Ms. Hersh said both Sarnoff and the university support the current alignment of the Millstone Bypass outlined in the township's Master Plan.
©Packet Online 2002
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Sierra Club: State still on the road to sprawl
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
By LARRY HANOVER
The Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter yesterday criticized the proposed Millstone Bypass and Route 92 projects and the completed Route 29 tunnel project as examples of transportation projects that promote sprawl.
Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club chapter, said the projects illustrate that although the McGreevey administration is making progress on "smart growth," it can do better.
"While the commissioner (James Fox) says they're fighting sprawl, the agency is still marching down the sprawl path," Tittel said.
Department of Transportation spokesman Micah Rasmussen defended the agency, saying it has largely gotten out of the business of building new highways, which can promote sprawling development. It is focusing on bridge and road repairs and public transit, he said.
"I think there's a vast amount of agreement with Sierra and us," Rasmussen said.
The Millstone Bypass and Route 92 projects are the subjects of environmental impact statements. Tittel criticized the state for budgeting money for road design and land acquisition even though study findings have yet to be issued.
With the studies ongoing, Rasmussen said, DOT has no crystal ball on whether the projects will move forward. The agency is working with the communities, he added.
As for the $105 million Route 29 tunnel, Rasmussen said: "We can understand where they're coming from, but it's already built and open to traffic. The tunnel is something we inherited and not something this administration decided to build, but this administration was left with the responsibility to open and operate it."
The Millstone Bypass, a 2.5-mile long road, is eyed as a way to remove four traffic lights on Route 1 and ease congestion. It would carry traffic from Route 571 in West Windsor near the Princeton Junction train tracks and cross Route 1 before rejoining Route 571 (Washington Road) east of Princeton Borough.
The Sierra Club is upset about the possible loss of a number of trees along the historic Elm Allee on Washington Road.
The estimated $350 million Route 92 project would stretch between Turnpike Exit 8A in Monroe to Route 1 just south of Ridge Road in South Brunswick.
The club is concerned that the highway would cut through the last remaining open-space tracts in southern Middlesex County and fill in more than 14 acres of wetlands. It said it would open up new areas of Central Jersey to sprawling development.
The club criticized the tunnel as causing ecological damage to the Delaware River by filling in part of the river bed.
The Sierra Club listed three other projects as poor transportation proposals: a $200 million Route 206 bypass under way in Hillsborough; an expansion of Route 15 connecting Interstate 80 in Morris County to Route 206 in Sussex County and an extension of Route 55 through Cape May County.
Rasmussen said the state is in complete agreement on Route 55 and is not pursuing it.
Copyright 2002 The Times.
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Sierra Club Highlights Sprawl Ways; New Jerseys Bad Transportation Projects - Features Local Projects Across the State that Encourage Traffic, Pollution & Sprawl
Princeton, NJ - The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club released a list today of the states worst road construction projects that promote more traffic, pollution and sprawl. These projects include the extension of Route 55, the expansion of Route 15, The Hillsborough Bypass,
the Trenton Tunnel, The Millstone Bypass and Route 92.
With the average American spending 55 workdays a year stuck in traffic, the National Sierra Club released a report today that highlights both good and bad examples of transportation planning around the country. The map, Smart Choices, Less Traffic demonstrates nearsighted planning, as well as creative and effective transportation projects.
The following projects are those that the New Jersey Chapter has named as poor proposals to local transportation solutions;
Route 55 is a four-lane, high-speed, limited access expressway that connects the Philadelphia/ Camden metropolitan area with South Jersey cities of Vineland and Millville, and delivers heavy traffic, bound for Cape May County to a network of slow roads near the mouth of the Maurice
River in Cumberland County. The proposed extension of Route 55 would cut through environmentally sensitive areas, wetlands, and state parks, and would open up Cape May County for development and sprawl.
The planned expansion of Route 15 would run north from I-80 in Morris County at Wharton, through Rockaway and Jefferson, and through Sparta and Lafayette is Sussex County before merging into Route 206. This area represents the very heart of the Highlands, which the U.S. Forest Service, the NJDEP and the New Jersey State Planning Commission have all
recognized as a crucial and sensitive ecological zone. The Highlands serves as a primary watershed, improves air quality and provides valuable open space for northern New Jersey and beyond.
The Millstone Bypass, as proposed is a 2.5 mile long, federally funded, two-lane highway. It would connect Princeton to Princeton Junction around Penns Neck in West Windsor Township. The western alignment of the highway would run within 50 feet of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park and parallel to the Millstone River . It will require the destruction of 25 % of the Washington Road elm trees which are not only historic but have been studied around the world as one of the only stands of American elms that have not been affected by Dutch elm disease. The NJDOT is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Statement.
Route 92 is a proposed highway that would connect the NJ Turnpike to Route1near Princeton. The highway would cut through the last remaining open space tracts in southern Middlesex County as well as fill over14 acres of wetlands that are part of the Millstone River watershed. This six-mile roadway with four interchanges would cost $380 million. The main purpose of this highway is to open up new areas of central Jersey to sprawl development. The EPA has declared opposition to the project and the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the Turnpike Authority to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement, which is currently in progress.
The Route 206 Bypass project currently underway in Hillsborough is a $200 million project that will widen the highway by Duke Estate cutting back densely forested area. The bypass will cut through the southern portion of Hillsborough, allowing for new zoning for box stores and office
parks, thus bringing sprawl to the towns last open areas. The Bypass also allows the Route 206 corridor to become wall to wall with shopping centers which has created a traffic nightmare.
The newly opened Trenton Tunnel on Route 29 in Trenton walled off the Delaware River with eight feet of concrete to alleviate traffic for suburbanites coming in and out of a minor-league basebale stadium. The roadbed filled in part of the river bed causing tremendous ecological damage to the river. The road has been rated as one of the most wasteful projects in the country by the Green Scissors Campaign.
Unfortunately, many public officials continue to support an anachronistic and unbalanced approach to transportation planning. Expensive and inefficient projects receive the lion's share of taxpayer funding. "We shouldn't spend billions of taxpayer dollars on new highways that will gobble up open spaces, destroy wetlands, and create new traffic corridors," said Jeff Tittel, Chapter Director.
The "Smart Choices, Less Traffic," transportation map is available online
Clarification: Comments sent to The Times along with the Press Release:
The NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club is participating in the Penns Neck Area EIS Partners Roundtable, which is an advisory committee working with the NJDOT and the Voorhees Transportation Policy Institute of Rutgers University. The Sierra Club is working to ensure that the EIS is prepared fairly and correctly, with minimal impact to the environment. While the Sierra Club strongly objects to the original preferred alignment of the Millstone Bypass, the Club is not opposed to any road per se. The Club does, however, object to any alignment that comes close to or significantly impacts the Millstone River, the Little Bear Brook, or the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
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This Road Show Hits All the Potholes
By Neil Genzlinger
NY Times New Jersey Section, June 23, 2002, p.1
Today's free advice: if offered the job of transportation commissioner, do not under any circumstances accept. Before long you'll be ricocheting around the state sounding like that bird who goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
Not that that's how James P. Fox, who now has the job, sounded the other day in Plainsboro, where he gathered municipal officials and anyone else who wanted to talk transportation. But Mr. Fox has been commissioner only since March. Give him time.
Here's why: In the same way that the Soviet Union used to sometimes be described with phrases like "it's not so much a country as a collection of ornery republics," New Jersey is not so much a state as a collection of ornery intersections. And the only intersection that matters is the one that you have to drive through.
That, at least, was the impression left by the Plainsboro meeting. Mr. Fox began by saying a few words about the big picture, talking about the bilevel cars planned for New Jersey Transit, about the need for a new tunnel into Manhattan, about trying to get away from our addiction to the endless widening of roads.
But when it came time for the audience to ask questions, all anyone wanted to bring up was whatever clogged intersection or contentious project was in his or her backyard. People were making pleas for stop-lights at back-country junctions, for planned projects to be moved a few dozen feet north or south, and so on. One person asked for a sign in a Route1 construction zone directing motorists to a particular diner.
These are, no doubt, all worthy concerns, but this was just one small slice of central New Jersey. If the commissioner's road show continues, the din of minutiae will surely become unbearable, not to mention distracting. Imagine being attacked by thousands of gnats while a large grizzly-the state's bigger transportation issues-eyes you hungrily.
Making it worse, of course, is that there are two sides, often more, to any transportation plea. This, too, was evident. Far every town that thought the long-planned construction on Route 92 across the center of the state would be disruptive, there was one that thought it a godsend. For every person opposed to the Millstone Bypass (a West Windsor project that you don't give a hoot about unless you live nearby, and if you do-live nearby you've heard more than enough about it already), there was one in favor.
"At the end of the day what we want is a plan that has more support than less support," Mr. Fox said, talking about the Millstone Bypass but stating the glum reality of trying to make any highway improvement, from Sussex County to Cape May.
If you want to get a sense of just how much energy we devote to the cult of intersections, take a look at http://www.state.nj.us/dot/ops/data/accidents/topl00.htm, where you'll find a detailed report released this month on New Jersey's 100 worst intersections. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Mr. Fox held his forum in Middlesex County: about a fifth of the Top 100, including No. 1 (Route 1 and Route 130), are located there.
The list makes clear that we analyze our intersections the way scholars parse great literature. It includes phrases like this, about Route 22 at Terrill Road in Somerset County: "In addition to several missing or deviant sign installations relevant to the currently approved signal plaintiff the same basic intersection geometry will be in place minimum recommendations will include the need for three-phase signal operation and displays and pedestrian indications." Whew.
Anyway, the Web site and the meeting make clear what needs to happen: everyone needs to pack up and take an extended vacation, simultaneously. The piecemeal approach-fixing an intersection here, adding an overpass there-will never do; we need to empty the state, rip out our entire transportation infrastructure and start over.
A good place for us all to go would be Alaska, because Mr. Fox-back when he was talking about the big picture-said that we need to make Representative Don Young of that state, chairman of the transportation committee, "our new best friend."
So let's all go visit Don for, say, a month and give the commissioner and his staff the breathing room they need to innovate. At the meeting, it sounded as if Mr. Fox was eager for that opportunity.
"I don't want to feel like I just paved roads when my tenure is over," he said.
© The New York Times Company 2002
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Eden founder out in the cold
By KAREN AYRES
WEST WINDSOR -- David Holmes says he feels like he's been left at the altar.
The president of the Eden Institute, which serves autistic children, wants to renovate and expand the Route 1 operation to almost double the number of infants and toddlers it can accommodate.
But right now the proposed Millstone Bypass alignment is slated to go right through the institute's property.
Although Holmes has secured a deal to move the campus if the state approves the original bypass proposal, he's in limbo until the group working to determine the fate of the project completes its work.
"We can't sell this property and we can't update this property," Holmes said. "There's been a huge increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism. But it would make no sense to put millions into upgrading the facility when it could be torn down next year."
The roundtable group compiling the Penns Neck Area Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will likely shape the state's decision on the bypass or any other road construction project in the area isn't slated to be done until April 2003.
In the meantime, Holmes says he doesn't support one particular alignment over another. He simply wants the group to finish its work so he can carve out a plan for the institute's future.
"We have no choice but to wait," said Holmes, who founded the institute 27 years ago. "Nobody seems to be able to take the risk of making a decision. While all these people are fighting, we sit here twiddling our thumbs."
Sarnoff Corp. is also waiting for a decision.
The company is relying on the road as it was originally proposed years ago to serve as a major access point for a massive technology campus they hope to construct over the next 20 years.
"We have to do that because we have nothing else to go on," said Tom Lento, Sarnoff's spokesman. "It's the only (alignment) that is really out there. If it gets adjusted, we'll have to change the plans."
The company plans to build its own access road if the original alignment of the bypass isn't approved, Lento said.
Princeton University is in the mix as well, since the alignment goes right through university-owned playing fields off Route 1.
"In terms of specific construction projects, we don't have any plans for those lands," said Pam Hersh, the university's director of community and state affairs. "But those are very well used facilities."
Both the university and Sarnoff are represented on the roundtable group, but Eden is not.
"I don't think they view us as a major player," Holmes said. "We're not as represented as we should be."
Martin Robbins, the director of the Rutgers Transportation Institute that is leading the roundtable group, says he has contacted Eden in the past.
"We're cognizant of their concerns," Robbins said. "If they need to talk to us, they certainly can. Their concern is resolution and that's what the New Jersey Department of Transportation would like us to achieve."
The Federal Highway Administration will make the ultimate decision on any road project in the area.
© 2001 The Times.
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Traffic group shuffles members
By KAREN AYRES
WEST WINDSOR -- The moderator of the group studying traffic conditions in the Penns Neck region has resigned after members said they were unhappy with the way he was conducting meetings.
Sandy Jaffe of the Rutgers Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution decided to leave his post leading the group, which is working on the Penns Neck Area Environmental Impact Statement.
"Some people weren't happy and he felt he had an ethical obligation to step down under those circumstances," said Martin Robbins, director of the Rutgers Transportation Policy Institute, which is in charge of compiling the statement for the state. "He's still advising us."
Robbins hired Lonnie Weiss of Weiss Consulting in Philadelphia to take Jaffe's place.
In December, Weiss conducted a scoping forum on behalf of the group for area residents to voice concerns over traffic problems.
"We had to make a quick decision and her performance was well-received by people," Robbins said.
The state Department of Transportation hired Rutgers' Transportation Institute for more than $1 million about a year ago to conduct the EIS after a less-stringent environmental assessment failed to yield consensus on the Millstone Bypass, a contentious road project slated for near Route 571.
Robbins said hiring a new moderator will not delay the process, which is slated for completion in about 18 months.
Robbins also said that although Weiss costs more per hour than Jaffe did, the group is still within budget because another member of Jaffe's staff has left the group and will not be replaced.
The roundtable group, which has representatives from a host of special interest groups, Princetonians and West Windsor residents, has struggled in the past to define its focus.
Some members of the group view their task solely as a way to reduce traffic in the Penns Neck area, while others want the group to review proposals such as bus transit as part of the general review on traffic along the Route 1 corridor and surrounding roads.
"We're continuing to work on those problems," Robbins said. "That's not the moderator's problem. Those things will ultimately be resolved."
The group is identifying various alignments that could work in the region and will spend the next two meetings reviewing specific elements of various plans, Robbins said.
"We're at a very important stage," he said. "The momentum is building. We have a lot of work to do."
The group hopes to start environmental analysis in the spring. Robbins said the group is required to consider a no-build option as part of its work.
The Federal Highway Administration will make the final decision.
The group's next two meetings are scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday and Feb. 13 at the West Windsor Senior Center on Clarksville Road.
© 2001 The Times.
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West Windsor & Plainsboro News, January 18, 2002
The moderator of the forum of "partners," created as part of the Penns Neck Environmental Impact Statement process, resigned recently amidst swirling controversy over the way the meetings are being conducted.
Sandy Jaffe of the Rutgers Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution announced his resignation stating that he had been told that some members of group are unhappy with the manner in which he has moderated discussions.
The Partners' Roundtable was assembled by the Transportation Policy Institute of Rutgers, which is conducting the EIS for the state, and is attempting to mediate a solution between those for and against the road.
Lonnie Weiss, a Philadelphia based professional meeting facilitator, who moderated the scoping forum on the project in December, has been hired as the new Partners' Roundtable moderator. The next meeting of the Roundtable is Wednesday, January 23, at 5 p.m. at the West Windsor Senior Center.
"It has certainly been as interesting as it has been challenging, and I appreciate the courtesy you have given to me," Jaffe has been reported as saying. "This roundtable has begun the process of listening to others. I am pleases to have helped with the beginning."
Recently, some members of the group have complained about the meetings claiming that they are out of control, and that some participants are grandstanding in an attempt to waylay the process."
"Some of the people from Princeton are out of control," says one regular attendee of the meetings. "Apparently they were complaining about Mr. Jaffee. I think he was completely unprepared for nasty sneaky way some people have gone about this process."
Roundtable member David Parris, a resident of Penns Neck, says Jaffe's resignation came as a complete surprise to him. "I had no advance indication of it and I regretted to hear it. I personally feel he did a fine job in what is undoubtedly a difficult and wearying task. I give him great credit for handling things very well. I thought he did a fine job."
Parris also encouraged all concerned with the Bypass issue to attend the meetings "to get some idea with how matters are going. Some of the meetings have been difficult and at times unruly. Anyone with the job of moderating
them has a very difficult task." Parris adds that he has confidence that Weiss will do a good job as Jaffe's successor. "She did a fine job at the scoping session and based on that, I would think she will do a fine job at the Roundtable."
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Millstone Bypass panel moderator resigns
By: David Campbell, Staff Writer January 11, 2002
PU president assures roundtable that Sarnoff land won't be developed during her tenure.
Continued tensions on the Penns Neck Environmental Impact Statement Partners Roundtable on Thursday drew the president of Princeton University to dispel rumors and the roundtable moderator's unexpected resignation.
Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman told roundtable members the university "is extremely eager to engage in discussions with you," and said there are no plans during her tenure as president to develop land fronting Route 1 in West Windsor Township which the university recently agreed to purchase from Sarnoff Corp.
Following Dr. Tilghman's discussion, Sandy Jaffe of Rutgers' Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution announced his resignation.
Mr. Jaffe said he had "been told that some parties at the roundtable are unhappy with the manner" in which he has moderated discussions, and so decided to step down.
"It has certainly been as interesting as it has been challenging, and I appreciate the courtesy you have given to me," he said. "This roundtable has begun the process of listening to others. I am pleased to have helped with that beginning."
Lonnie Weiss of Philadelphia-based Weiss Consulting was hired to take his place by Martin Robins, director of Rutgers' Transportation Policy Institute, Mr. Jaffe said.
The mediated EIS is the most recent attempt by the state Department of Transportation to resolve several controversial issues surrounding the Millstone Bypass proposal, first submitted by the DOT in 1986.
The DOT hired Rutgers University's Transportation Policy Institute about a year ago to mediate a solution after Former Gov. Christie Whitman rejected the DOT's environmental assessment of the bypass project.
The roundtable, an advisory committee of area stakeholders, began meeting in June.
The Rutgers team will use roundtable input and testimony gathered at a recent public scoping forum to complete the EIS, expected out in draft form by November 2002 and in final form by April 2003.
Recently, moderators have been criticized by factions at the roundtable who have complained that mixed signals about the scope and constraints of the study have been sent, claiming on the one hand it is innovative and "out of the box" and on the other ruling out alternatives that do not conform with the standard EIS process.
Some members complained the December scoping session was premature because a problem statement has not yet been agreed upon, and said they were told only recently that mass transit was outside the scope of the study, making a roadway solution seem likely.
Princeton University also has become the subject of criticism and rumor, which President Tilghman and Robert Durkee, the university's vice president for public affairs, sought to address and dispel at the Thursday session.
A rumor that the university plans to close off Washington Road by severing its link with Route 1 is untrue, as are rumors the university first proposed building the Millstone Bypass or that it is "wedded" to any particular alignment, Mr. Durkee said.
Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed thanked President Tilghman for attending, but said Princeton has had "varied degrees of success in the past engaging the university in dialogue."
Mayor Reed said a new campus on lands across Route 1 in West Windsor which the university recently announced it would acquire from Sarnoff will bring more traffic, and said, "I don't understand why the university was not prepared to work with us to address those traffic demands."
The mayor said, "We think we're facing enormous increases in employee traffic" when that land is developed.
Roundtable member Candace Preston of a Harrison Street neighborhood association said, "There are a lot of positive things about the university that people can appreciate," but said communication by the university has been lacking.
"We've got to stop with the propaganda and work with the real facts," Ms. Preston said. "If there was one institution that could affect traffic single-handedly, it would be the university."
Mr. Durkee said the university has no immediate plans to develop the Sarnoff lands, but said when they are developed, educational facilities, not commercial projects, will be built.
Dr. Tilghman said the Sarnoff acquisition "was a prudent thing for me to do for future generations to have that land" and that during her tenure as president the university "will leave it completely undeveloped."
©Packet Online 2002
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Ease impact, but recognize traffic reality
By: Packet Editorial December 11, 2001
PACKET EDITORIAL, Dec. 11
It's been about nine months since then-Gov. Christie Whitman flashed a red light in front of the state Department of Transportation, bringing that agency's driving determination to press ahead with the controversial Millstone Bypass to a screeching halt.
A lot has changed since the governor ordered a full environmental impact statement prepared on the plan to build a 2.3-mile east-west roadway across Route 1 in West Windsor in order to eliminate traffic lights at Washington Road, Fisher Place and Harrison Street.
For one thing, the project has a new name: It's not the Millstone Bypass anymore. The document the DOT has been instructed to prepare is now known as the "Penns Neck Area EIS."
For another, the process is entirely different. The usual procedure for planning a new highway in New Jersey is for the DOT to propose it, conduct its own environmental review, listen politely to the ensuing public outcry and then go ahead and build it pretty much as planned. In this case, however, mediators from Rutgers University's Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, together with facilitators from the university's Transportation Policy Institute, have been brokering a series of meetings designed to foster a new, community-based approach to resolving outstanding issues and disagreements.
And, of course, there's a different governor - acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco - who has steered well clear of the controversy. And next month, there will be yet another governor - Jim McGreevey - who studiously avoided taking sides on such local issues during the fall campaign. And in the next few weeks, Gov.-elect McGreevey will appoint a new transportation commissioner, whose ideas and views could take the project in a whole new direction.
The only things that have not changed in the past nine months, and seem unlikely to change any time in the foreseeable future, are the positions staked out by proponents and opponents of the project. Last week, they showed up at a "public scoping forum" and pretty much reiterated what they have been saying for years - which essentially boils down to four arguments:
* The bypass will cause gridlock: Officials in Princeton Borough and Princeton Township oppose the bypass because they fear it will funnel traffic that now comes into their communities from three arteries - Alexander Road, Washington Road and Harrison Street - down to a single roadway, resulting in a massive traffic jam at the western terminus of the bypass, wherever that happens to be.
* The bypass will relieve gridlock: Officials in West Windsor favor the bypass because it will ease congestion in their community, removing the traffic lights that cause north-south traffic jams along Route 1 and east-west traffic jams along Washington Road.
* The "build-it-and-they-will-come" proposition: Environmentalists contend that building a new road will attract more cars, cause more pollution, increase pressure to develop the land adjacent to the roadway and discourage mass transit, carpooling, bicycling and other environmentally friendly alternatives.
* The "built-it-because-they're-already-here" doctrine: Major employers, including businesses along Route 1, maintain that the transportation infrastructure in the region already is overburdened and will only get worse unless a new road is built to accommodate current and future demand.
In our view, the last of these arguments is the most compelling - and we suspect that most motorists who spend time either on Route 1 or trying to get across it would agree with us. But we also continue to believe that the concerns of Princeton officials and environmentalists can and should be addressed. We are confident, for example, that a way could be found to configure the bypass so that the distribution of traffic does not fall disproportionately on one roadway coming into Princeton.
And efforts to encourage mass transit, carpooling and other alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles - along with significantly stricter emissions standards and tough zoning ordinances that would prohibit development adjacent to the new roadway - should be part and parcel of any decision to proceed with construction of the bypass.
But proceed we must. The community-based approach still offers the best opportunity to find areas of common interest among all the parties involved in this dispute. But if those parties remain glued to their hardened positions, and this process succeeds only in further delaying an already long-overdue decision, we will be sorely disappointed.
©Packet Online 2001
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Group: Delay traffic meeting
By KAREN AYRES
WEST WINDSOR -- Several members of the group formed to address transportation woes in the Penns Neck region say the state is trying to railroad the environmental impact statement process that will likely shape future road projects in the area.
Fifteen people devoted to the environment and transportation have asked acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco to postpone a scoping forum scheduled for Dec. 4 because the group hasn't finalized a problem statement or a list of goals and objectives for the public's response.
The EIS round table group was formed to find transportation solutions that are agreeable to both West Windsor residents and Princetonians, who have long been at odds with each other over the proposed Millstone Bypass.
"The purpose of the process is to have good public input," said Jean Mahoney, who represents Millstone Bypass Alert, a coalition of 21 groups that opposed the original proposed alignment of the Millstone Bypass.
"The process is moving along too quickly. There is no rush to do this scoping forum."
The state Department of Transportation hired the Rutgers Transportation Policy Institute to facilitate the EIS process after former Gov. Christie Whitman rejected a less-stringent environmental study over the contentious Millstone Bypass alignment about a year ago.
"We have received the letter," said John Dourgarian, a DOT spokesman. "We will review it and take into consideration their position and get back to them with a response as quickly as possible."
A group of about 40 residents, environmentalists and transportation experts have met about twice a month for the past six months to direct the process, which could yield the construction of the Millstone Bypass, another road or no road at all in an effort to control traffic in the Penns Neck area.
Those who submitted the letter say it will be at least May before they're ready for public comment.
Martin Robbins of Rutgers yesterday said he hasn't received a copy of the letter. The scoping forum was scheduled by Rutgers and DOT officials, he added.
"It was done with our belief that a scoping forum should have been held far earlier in the process," Robbins said. "It's a basic disagreement or maybe misunderstanding about the purpose of the scoping forum.
"The round table is not our sole source of public input. Scoping sessions are usually held very early in the process."
Those who submitted the letter say they don't want to delay the EIS process, but they think it would be a waste of time to hold the forum in December since the round table group hasn't finished its problem statement to use as a basis for future discussions about traffic in the area.
"It seems ludicrous for DOT to go ahead with a scoping forum when there's no problem statement," said Jennifer Jaroski of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
George Hawkins of the Stonybrook Millstone Watershed Association said residents won't be sure whether to talk about their reactions to traffic in general or their objections to the original proposal for the Millstone Bypass.
"The public has to be clear about what is the topic of the hearing," Hawkins said. "No one wants to delay the project for delay's sake. But sometimes you save time by spending time."
Laura Lynch of the Sierra Club said group members are still waiting for traffic studies and other data to complete the problem statement.
"They're trying not to get to the heart of the matter," said Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club. "The scoping forum is more about procedure over substance."
The EIS process is slated for completion in 2003.
© 2001 The Times.
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Millstone Bypass panel charged with bypassing options
By: David Campbell, Staff Writer November 16, 2001
Some on panel say alternatives to bypass have already been eliminated
When state Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein announced in March that third-party mediation would be used to resolve the long-standing stalemate over the Millstone Bypass, he said that "everything is on the table."
Some members of the Partners' Roundtable, an advisory committee of area stakeholders set up as part of the innovative new process, thought that table would be big enough to include a no-build solution.
Now they fear the process already has been so narrowed that a recommendation to build a bypass road is inevitable, and alternate solutions such as public transportation have been eliminated, even at these early stages of mediation.
After about six months of mediation by the Transportation Policy Institute of Rutgers University, Rutgers' Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and New York-based Helen Neuhaus and Associates, members have been unable to agree on what the problem is or what the scope of the solution should be.
Roundtable members complain they were told recently that mass transit was outside the scope of the study, causing them to wonder now if the table was ever intended to hold anything but the Millstone Bypass - with the troublesome name taken off.
"We feel the solution to traffic problems in the Penns Neck area is not merely a question of removing three traffic lights, but rather a much more broad look at a regional traffic problem which requires us to think out of the box," said Laura Lynch of the Central New Jersey Sierra Club.
A year ago, the DOT released its long-awaited environmental assessment of the bypass, a document that had been in preparation by the agency for years. It made a case for its proposed 2.3-mile roadway alignment that would connect Route 571, near the Princeton Junction train station, to Washington Road, near Carnegie Lake, paralleling the Millstone River and Delaware & Raritan Canal.
But shortly afterward, then-Gov. Christie Whitman ordered the completion of a full environmental impact statement, a thorough and public review of alternatives to the DOT-preferred alignment, including no-build scenarios.
With Commissioner Weinstein's announcement last March, the bypass project was renamed the Penns Neck EIS and, beginning in June, Rutgers mediators set to work with roundtable members to define the problem the EIS would address.
Rutgers and the DOT have scheduled a public scoping forum for Dec. 4, which is the next step in the two-year EIS process. But some roundtable members say the meeting is premature because mediators and roundtable members can't yet agree on the problem or the scope of possible solutions the public should discuss.
"The problem statement has not been completed yet," said Jean Mahoney of Millstone Bypass Alert, a citizens' group. "And until it's completed, we don't know what we're talking about, what the problem is we're trying to solve."
At the roundtable's Nov. 7 meeting, members were told public transit was beyond the scope of the solution, which Peggy Killmer of the Regional Citizens Committee called "frustrating."
"My vision of this process is being demolished," she said. "The project is much more limited. How can we solve the problem if we cannot look beyond the immediate area?"
More than one roundtable member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, has begun to wonder if the solution will inevitably be the Millstone Bypass under a different name.
One said the moderators are sending a mixed message about the constraints of the study, on the one hand claiming it is innovative and "out of the box," while on the other ruling out alternatives that do not conform with standard EIS process.
Richard Barrett of Sensible Transportation Options Partnership said the "core issues driving the conflict have not been dealt with" by the moderators, and indicated that as moderators limit the scope, a roadway solution of some kind seems inevitable.
"As the alternatives are narrowed, frustration sets in," Mr. Barrett said. "If we're not looking for innovative solutions, and non-auto solutions, what's the purpose of it all?"
Mr. Barrett said, "It was my understanding the roundtable team would be hired for conflict resolution. There's a lot of residual mistrust from the past history of the bypass. I don't think there has been much conflict resolution."
Martin Robins, director of Rutgers' Transportation Policy Institute, remains optimistic.
"I think there are very positive things that have been going on, like the problem statement committee, where parties have been working together and really hammering out what the problem will be," he said.
Mr. Robins said there are still points of disagreement, such as the nature of the transit alternative in the EIS. "We're finding we're in very uncertain areas, very uncharted waters in the interplay of transit and highway alternatives," he said. "It's a challenging process with a considerable amount of differences of opinion. In the end, if we all keep our eyes on the facts, ultimately we will be satisfied with the process."
Mr. Robins added, "We still have a long way to go."
Roundtable member George Hawkins, executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, said, "We thought the process itself would have a wider scope. Is the process, in fact, going to allow us to look at anything other than alternative alignments?"
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, in association with a number of other area groups, has written an open letter to acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco and Commissioner Weinstein urging them to postpone the public scoping forum until the study area and the problem are properly defined.
"NJ DOT is trying to rush through the process without properly setting up the study, despite the fact that it is part of a lame-duck government," said Jennifer Jaroski, New Jersey coordinator of Tri-State. "They are trying to force the Millstone Bypass on the community."
©Packet Online 2001
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For Route 1 Traffic, Some Progress, Lots of Process
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the September 26, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
David Parris grew up in and around Wichita, Kansas. Sure, there are traffic problems in Kansas, he says, but they don't approach those now choking the streets near his Penns Neck home. "Cities in the middle of the continent grew up with the automobile," he says. That is not the case in central New Jersey, where, he points out, we are still operating in part on a system of Colonial roads.
West Windsor, in which Penns Neck is located, was a town of 1,000 souls when Parris' wife, the former Sue Connolly, a fifth generation resident of Penns Neck, was growing up. As recently as 30 years ago, when the couple were married, "Penns Neck was a quiet village. There were no honking horns," Parris recalls. Now, Penns Neck and the towns around it on both sides of Route 1 are home to 343,832 people, up from 114,842 in 1960.
"It's difficult even to get out of the house," says Parris of the current traffic situation. He has a Washington Road address, but lives just off Washington Road on Fairview Avenue on the Sarnoff side of the street. He is grateful not to have to back a car out onto Washington Road, which as Route 571 draws traffic all the way from the Turnpike in Hightstown to Princeton's Nassau Street.
But Washington Road's problems spill onto his street. Truckers, frustrated by long delays at the Washington Road light, frequently try a shortcut down Fairview. "We are always calling the police, telling them the power lines have been pulled down," Parris says. "It's a regular event." Accidents are common also, as desperate motorists make a lunge out onto Washington Road at any break in traffic. "We've met a number of nice people who have waited in our house for the police," says Parris of some of those involved in accidents on his doorstep.
Parris is one of 32 members of a roundtable assembled by Rutgers University's Transportation Policy Institute at the request of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. It is the roundtable's job to come up with solutions to the multi-faceted problem of gridlock on Route 1, a problem the Millstone Bypass was to have addressed. Jim Berzok, spokesman for the DOT, says this is the first time his department has ever turned to a roundtable or any similar mechanism. The group, which invites wide participation from the public, is developing an all-encompassing environmental impact statement for the Penns Neck area.
The issues here are about as convoluted as they get, ranging from the stated desire of the Sarnoff Corporation, a revered corporate citizen, to add 20 buildings to its complex to the preservation of a scenic elm allee on the west side of Washington Road. The players include Princeton University, a number of environmental groups, the mayors of many of the towns touching Route 1 and the administrations of Mercer and Middlesex counties, regional planning groups, and neighborhood coalitions. Parris, representing Penns Neck, falls into the latter category.
Trained as a geologist at Princeton University (Class of 1972), he has spent his entire working life as a curator at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton. The son of an archeologist, he had heard about the museum's "very important geology and paleontology collections" when he was growing up in Kansas, and was delighted to accept a job there upon graduation. He and his wife spent the first 20 years of their marriage in Ewing, where he volunteered with that township's planning and environmental commissions. For the past 10 years, the family has made its home in his wife's family homestead. He has a book, published in 1890, that shows her family farming in the area near the Millstone River where the Millstone Bypass, a leading choice to relieve Route 1 traffic, would go.
Parris speaks of the time his oldest son, who suffers from autism, had a seizure during the morning rush hour. "It staggered me," he says of the thought that an ambulance might not be able to make it through. "The rescue squad sent a fire engine," he says. "Effectively, they had to sweep the street of traffic."
A deliberate, reasonable-sounding man, Parris came oh-so-close to what he believes to be the answer to his community's traffic problem. The Millstone Bypass nearly got the green light. The road would have begun at Route 571 railroad bridge near Ellsworth's liquor store and proceeded through the Sarnoff property paralleling the Millstone River. Then it would have crossed Route 1 at an overpass near Harrison Street and turned south near the Delaware & Raritan Canal to eventually intersect with Washington Road near the Princeton border.
Last spring, an environmental assessment, the last step needed to make the road a reality, was nearly complete when then Governor Christie Whitman, bowing to an increasingly loud chorus of dissent, decided to proceed with an Environmental Impact Statement study, a much more sweeping assessment project. The Millstone Bypass, which could have been under construction by the spring of 2003, was put on hold. The project had been on the drawing board since the early-1980s.
Traffic build-up in the area has been a sore point for much longer. A study of the earliest minutes of the Chamber of Commerce of the Princeton Area, formed in the 1950s, reveals gridlock gripes and shows plans for a system of remote parking lots and shuttles to take workers to their jobs. In the 1970s, anyone trying to make it to Route 1 from Princeton in the afternoon knew to scoot out of town well before 4 p.m. The penalty for missing the cut-off was a long, long sit in stone-still traffic.
Streamlining traffic flow on Route 1 by removing lights in the Princeton area has long been a DOT priority. During the past few years, lights at Alexander Road and College Road East have come down, and the light at Meadow Road will soon follow. Berzok, the DOT spokesman, says the Meadow Road overpass project is on schedule, and the overpass will be finished and the light will be removed early in 2002.
The trio of lights in the Penns Neck area are proving to be more difficult to sweep out of the way. They are the lights at Washington Road, near Parris' home, and two just a little north, the lights at Fischer Place and at Harrison Street. They slow traffic on Route 1, and cause massive back-ups on feeder roads, many of them in residential areas. Penns Neck, the town of West Windsor, the Sarnoff corporation, and Princeton University say the Millstone Bypass is the answer.
"It sits on clean land," says Parris. "No buildings would have to be condemned."
The Princetons, township and borough, after initially reacting complacently, became alarmed at the prospect of the new road. Jean Mahoney, a roundtable member who represents the Millstone Bypass Alert, a coalition of 22 groups, says that "when the Millstone Bypass was first discussed, it was to be a small road. Then the Hightstown Bypass came, and 92 was under discussion. Our concern is that it would turn into 92 and become a major east-west link that would drop Turnpike traffic in Princeton.
"Twenty years ago," Mahoney says, "it was on the books as just a squiggly line." The plan did not immediately ring alarm bells with either the Princetons or with environmental groups, but Mahoney now says, "Oh my goodness. What were we thinking?"
The official stance of the roundtable, and of the Rutgers Center for Transportation Policy, is that the Millstone Bypass will not be favored over any other plan. "We're starting from the beginning," says Martin Robins, director of the center. "We're not using the template of the Millstone Bypass."
The center, Robins says, is one of just a handful of such institutions in the country. "There is one at the Rudin Center at NYU," he says, "and one at San Jose." Most academic transportation institutes deal with issues of engineering and computer modeling, but these few work with policy issues. And apparently there is a need for their expertise.
"It turns out there is plenty of work for us," says Robins. Among the center's projects are analyzing New Jersey Transit's capital budget, comparing train use in Europe with that in the United States for Amtrak, and helping the DOT come up with a plan for state highways such as Route 27 that act as Main Streets as they pass through commercial areas.
Robins is the first director of the center. A graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School (Class of 1964), he earned a law degree from Harvard and practiced law in the private sector before joining the Attorney General's office in the area of public transportation. In 1975 he moved to the Department of Transportation, and began his work on transportation policy.
Robins lives in Westfield, a town with a thriving center of stores and restaurants. While that section of the state, about an hour north of Princeton, is trafficy, he says the problems there are not as serious as they are in central New Jersey. "Westfield does not have massive new development around it," he says. "The degree of office development is not as great."
"Westfield is much more like Princeton," he says. "It has a shape. Princeton Borough does well on its own. It has a workable downtown." West Windsor, however is a different animal. "It is a very fast-growing community," he says. "It has become a major office destination." The township has also boomed in terms of homes and commercial activity. The area is not unique, he says, but is "a leader in terms of developing edge city problems."
Those problems include traffic, and that is the issue Robins is charged with resolving. Helping out is the Rutgers University Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. That group fanned out into the communities surrounding Route 1 in the Princeton area, spoke with those interested in finding a traffic solution, and chose the members of the roundtable, which began meeting in the spring.
Mahoney, the delegate from Millstone Bypass Alert, says early meetings -- held approximately twice a month -- have been devoted to setting up procedures for proceeding, including some discussion of the optimal shape for a meeting table. But now, she says, the roundtable is getting down to the serious business of writing up all of the problems to be considered.
Robins says these include north-south traffic, east-west traffic, public transportation, pedestrian and bicycle access, underlying land issues, development expectations, telecommuting, office space needs, historic buildings, natural resources, open space, and the relationship between current traffic and future traffic.
"It is clear that the area is uniquely filled with all kinds of resources," says Robins. An exaggeration that is not. From Sarnoff, birthplace of television, to the town of Princeton, which played an important role in the birthplace of the nation, to the Baptist church in Penns Neck, to the Princeton elms, to the waters of the Millstone River, the area is full of treasures. The trove is exceeded only by the number of passionate defenders of each jewel.
The Millstone Bypass, in its various incarnations, would have destroyed some of these cherished icons and institutions. Alternatives would hurt others.
Mahoney, a graduate of Mt. Holyoke who worked first as a chemist and then as an administrator for Princeton University for 25 years, jumped into the fray because of her love for the Princeton Elms. The trees, running from Route 1 to Lake Carnegie along Washington Road, were developed and planted by William Flemer, owner of Princeton Nurseries, a nursery that was located where Windrows now sits. "He was in France as an ambulance driver during World War I," she recounts. "He noticed the allees with trees arching over roads. He saw how they provided shade and a lovely vista."
At least some of the trees would have to be cut down to make way for the Millstone Bypass. The trees are immune to Dutch Elm disease and would be a loss, defenders say, because of their historic significance and their scientific value. But, just as important, says Mahoney, cutting them down would destroy the "grand entrance to Princeton."
Mahoney's passion for the trees pales against Parris' feelings for the Baptist church, cemetery, and historic buildings in Penns Neck, which, over the years, have been X-ed out in drawings for proposed roads, including early renditions of the Millstone Bypass.
"For years, we thought our village would be sacrificed for the sake of others," Parris says. "In the early '80s, someone on the Princeton Regional Planning Board said the Baptist church was "`just a shell of a church.' It was a rallying moment," Parris says. "The vast amount of excavation and construction would have destroyed not only the church, but also the cemetery."
Many members of the community, his wife included, have relatives buried in the cemetery. As for the church, a white structure that sits just yards from Route 1, Parris says: "It's a wonderful treasure. It's inclusive, multi-racial. People of all economic levels worship there.
"The church is a symbol of the community," says Parris, who is not himself a member of the church. "It was devastating to have it treated with such disdain."
The area surrounding the three traffic lights that are blamed for holding up travel on Route 1 and backing up side streets all around is home to all sorts of institutions. In addition to the elms and the Baptist church, there is the Sarnoff Corporation. It is willing to have the traffic-solution road go through its substantial campus, as the Millstone Bypass was slated to do. Sarnoff, which uses its world-class technological know how to, among other things, create companies to develop new products, wants to greatly expand its campus. A Millstone Bypass-like road would be a great help in getting new employees into and out of the area smoothly.
Like many residents of Penns Neck and the entire West Windsor area, Parris thinks Sarnoff should get what it wants. Decades ago, when it was possible to cross Washington Road without risking life and limb, many area residents walked to work at Sarnoff. Over the years, the corporation has provided excellent jobs, and is considered a good neighbor.
There is at least one member of the roundtable, however, who does not think being a good corporate neighbor is enough to entitle Sarnoff to get its way. George Hawkins, director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, thinks the area cannot sustain many more office buildings. We are at a crisis point, he says, choking on traffic, much of it generated by office workers, some traveling great distances to reach their desks.
Hawkins' oldest child moved from pre-school to kindergarten this year. In doing so, he exchanged a 9 a.m. start time for an 8 a.m. start time. Living beyond the range of a school bus, the kindergartner hitches a ride with his dad.
"I'm dumbfounded. I'm just astounded by the traffic," says Hawkins. A resident of Lawrence Township, he tries to bypass Carter Road, Cold Soil Road, and Rosedale Lane on his daily run to Craven Lane Elementary School. Rural roads wending past farms and homes set back on generous lots were sleepy lanes not long ago. Now they are gridlocked during rush hour.
Hawkins takes to even smaller roads as he ferries his child to school, twisting and turning through residential areas in a mostly futile attempt to escape the traffic. The same scene is played in Princeton, Penns Neck, Pennington, and every other town in the area.
"The problem," says Hawkins, "is that infrastructure decisions are detached from decisions on how we use land. We make sure immediate needs are looked at. We make sure roads are built, but we don't look at larger issues."
Hawkins, a graduate of Princeton University (Class of 1983) and of Harvard Law School, has just completed his fourth year at Stony Brook. On the roundtable, he will be pushing for alternative traffic-reduction plans. Plans that don't call for more roads.
Hawkins' office sits across the road from the parking lots of Bristol-Myers Squibb's Hopewell facility. "I see lots of Pennsylvania license plates," he says. He advocates shuttle lots on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware for those workers. To get even more cars off the roads, he says employers need to implement incentive and disincentive plans aimed at boosting use of mass transit, car pools, and van pools.
"We think of parking as free, but it isn't," Hawkins says. Beyond the fact that corporations pay to erect and maintain parking lots and garages, "there are environmental costs, and social costs." If employers charged workers to park, and at the same time gave additional pay to those who used mass transit, there would be fewer cars on the roads, he is convinced. "I never drive to New York City," he says. "It's too expensive, so I take the train." Workers who report to office parks could be encouraged to develop the same mindset, he says.
As far as office parks go, Hawkins thinks there are just about enough of them in the greater Princeton area. "Adding new jobs means 1. new houses or 2. more people drive in," he says. "We have had a single-minded focus on adding more jobs in quantity, but at some point we should say `Our commercial base is very good. We're about where we want to be.'"
Richard Barrett, who sits on the roundtable as a representative of S.T.O.P. (Sensible Transportation Options Partnership), an anti-Millstone Bypass coalition, isn't for ending all office construction -- not necessarily. But, like Hawkins, he says it is imperative that the roundtable take the long view, and look at creative alternatives.
Barrett, an artist and Princeton resident who holds a fine arts degree from Florida State (Class of 1974) and a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, also maintains a studio in New York City near the West Side Highway. He took part in the epic planning battle surrounding that highway, and in the process picked up an impressive body of information about transportation policy. He says issues that arose in the planning of the West Side Highway apply to Route 1. In both cases, there are considerations of esthetics and access to the natural resources, along with a need to move traffic efficiently.
Barrett says he is "dismayed" that so early in the roundtable process there has been a report -- from NJ Transit -- that a light rail system along Route 1 won't be possible in the next 20 years because there aren't enough people to support it. "Put in mass transit, then build around it," is his suggestion.
Putting in more roads is not the answer. "Roadways don't relieve congestion, they bring more traffic," he says," citing studies that have estimated the Millstone Bypass would be clogged and obsolete in five years. He points to the Newbury Bypass in Great Britain as an example of a road similar to the Millstone Bypass. The road was built as a way to move cars around villages, and was, he says, "a big disaster," bringing in two times the previous amount of traffic.
Barrett is opposed to any road that would close Washington Road, recalling that as long ago as the mid-1980s, then mayor Barbara Sigmund stressed it was vital to keep open all three of the roads leading into Princeton -- Washington Road, Harrison Street, and Alexander Road. Closing Washington Road to through traffic, as the Millstone Bypass proposes to do, would force one-third of the already-heavy traffic on those entrance roads onto another road, most probably Harrison Street.
Getting rid of the three Penns Neck lights -- the linchpin of DOT planning -- might not even be a good idea, Barrett says. Like Hawkins, he points out that a major Route 1 bottleneck now is the entrance to Route 95/295, site of monster backups every workday evening. There is no light there, and the effect of "unmodulated" traffic racing down to that spot could make a bad situation worse.
Barrett is among those who think the answer to the traffic jams on Route 1 could be a tunnel beneath the highway at Washington Road. While the Millstone Bypass plan often has pitted West Windsor and the Princetons against one another, this plan could make Washington Road a connector between the two. Barrett envisions a park atop the tunnel, creating a new recreation resource for the area. There have been suggestions that such a tunnel would be prohibitively expensive. Parris, Penns Neck's representative, has raised concerns that it could interfere with the area's watertable.
Barrett dismisses both concerns. His group has engaged engineers, who have said the project is feasible. "Tunnels are being built all over the country; one is being built in Trenton," he says. "What are a few million more dollars?"
The solution to Route 1's traffic woes, and those of the towns that surround it, "call for a complete rethinking" of assumptions, says Barrett. If creative, fresh thinking isn't employed, the whole roundtable will be "for naught."
Like many other members of the roundtable, Barrett sees the process as "a challenge and an opportunity." While this could well be good news for the region long term, it does little to help the Parris family and their neighbors get out of their driveways any time soon. Parris understands the process is necessary, and is willing to be patient.
What he might not be as willing to accept is Hawkins' assessment. "It's not just Penns Neck," he says. "It's Harrison Street, Lawrenceville, Carter Road. It's the whole area. It's unlikely we can get back to the way Penns Neck was 20 years ago."
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