New Princeton Circulation Element Proposes Reopening Province Line Road To Cars

Province Line bike-ped bridge could become a road for cars again according to Princeton's Circulation Element. (Click to expand.)

Province Line bridge could become a road for cars again according to Princeton’s recently-revised Masterplan Circulation Element. (Click to expand.)

The bridge you see in the photograph above provides a crossing over the Stony Brook on Province Line Road in Princeton. It was built in Berlin, Connecticut in 1903 and is the longest of three surviving Warren pony truss bridges in Mercer County. It was closed in 1981, but rehabilitated and re-opened (to bikes and pedestrians only) in 2012. What happens to this route now could be an indicator of the direction that Princeton’s transportation policy is going to take in the coming years.

Last month, the Princeton Planning Board adopted a revised Circulation Element for the municipal Masterplan. On the surface, the revised Circulation Element gives walkability advocates plenty to cheer about. The introduction to the ‘goals’ section reads as follows:

“It is the policy of this Master Plan to entice people out of their cars and to promote using mass transit, bicycles or walking as their primary means of travel.”

Sounds great, right? But there’s a potential problem: although the revised Circulation Element talks about increasing walking and cycling as transportation modes, the specific steps that will be taken to make this happen are either absent or presented in vague terms. On the other hand, there are pages and pages of detail on potential projects to expand roads for cars. One of the many planned projects is to expand Province Line Road to make it a two-lane throughway complete with shoulders, and with a new two-lane car bridge over the Stony Brook. Don’t believe us? Here’s part of the text, quoted verbatim from page 58 of the revised Circulation Element:

“Province Line Road Extension – Province Line Road should be improved and extended from Rosedale Road to Cherry Valley Road, with two lanes and shoulders. The bridge over the Stony Brook should be replaced or repaired. The proposed extension of Province Line Road must maintain the scenic and rural character of this roadway.”

Ettl Farms and Pretty Brook neighbors would no doubt scream if they knew there was a chance that Province Line Road could become a Princeton bypass -but here it is- written into the municipal Masterplan. The only person who had any comments about the proposed road projects was Kristen Appelget, representing Princeton University, who sought clarification about proposed projects around Alexander Street and Faculty Road.

It’s pretty clear why expanding Province Line Road would be popular with traffic engineers- it would divert drivers passing through Princeton away from the center of the town. On the other hand, if we plan for cars and traffic, that is what we are going to get. We always focus on car transportation, and unsurprisingly, the car is the major mode of transport in Princeton, just as in many other Jersey places. Can we plan instead for bikes and pedestrians? Princeton has rolled out several sidewalks projects in recent years, but we are failing miserably with making appropriate infrastructure for safe cycling.

The Circulation Element reaffirms Princeton’s ‘Complete Streets‘ policy, but we know it is being completely ignored during the current Alexander Street construction project. In future,  Local residents will have to be vigilant and vocal to demand that municipal Princeton follows through on the best bits of the new Circulation Element, to put the brakes on yet more expensive road improvements which incentivize cars as the primary means of transport.

What do you think? Would you be pleased to get Province Line Road open again for car traffic? Do you think Princeton should make better allowance for cycling and walking, or concentrate on moving the greatest number of cars at the greatest speeds possible? Have your say in the comments section below!

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7 Responses to New Princeton Circulation Element Proposes Reopening Province Line Road To Cars

  1. While I think the very affluent people that live on this VERY quite stretch of Province Line Road will never let this happen, I find it disconcerting that one of the few quite and safe bicycle “escape routes” out of Princeton is at least planed for a major increase in traffic. I would love to see bike lanes or shoulders on Province Line Road south of Rosedale. I rode my bike on that once on a quite Sunday afternoon and it was rather scary for even this highly experienced cyclist.

  2. I got in a dialog with the Master Plan Subcommittee chairman close to 16 months ago on this very topic, when I read the Circ Element draft. My understanding is that not only does our planning board advocate this, but Mercer County somewhat buys into it – although their mobility plan (link below to 2010 map) doesn’t hi-lite anything in yellow. However, Province Line Rd has been in the local master plan for decades, hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t seem close to happening (crossing ridges can get expensive) and might not find as much support in towns bordering ours, who lend their initials to LHT. By their very nature, Master Plan documents need to be crafted in a crafty way such that anything with a remote chance of ever being built ought to be included, and retained for years on end. SK

    The nasty stretch of Province Line Rd is between the canal and 206, zero shoulder.

    • SFB says:

      “crafted in a crafty way such that anything with a remote chance of ever being built ought to be included”
      – Yes, which is why it’s so depressing that bike lanes are not included in the master plan.

      • “Complaining is not a strategy.” — Jeff Bezos ’86

        In the latter half of 2012, a pair of engaged volunteers attended many meetings and made numerous presentations, expressly to overhaul the bike-related content in the Circ Element, which only gets revised every 6 years or so. The outcome was not what we had hoped for, but what it does now say, at least the last time I had a look:

        “Implement a network of Bicycle routes per the Bicycle Route Plan that shows users how easily to access neighborhoods, recreational areas, schools and shopping areas. This Bicycle Route Plan is to be completed in 2013 and included in the appendix of the Master Plan.”

        Note, their word “plan” is quite often used to denote “a map with colored lines”. A map did get revised per our recommendations during 2013, although it has not yet been officially ratified. But it does recognize the concept of a “Bike Route Network”, missing links, etc. What’s still missing is a detailed Bicycle Circulation Plan (document) which not only subsumes the one created by Charles Carmalt 11+ years ago, but also meshes with the University’s own Bike Plan, and surrounding plans, for example this one from Lawrence Twp:

        PS the reason I mention Amazon’s CEO is not just because I saw the infamous bit about package delivery drones on 60 Minutes, but pertaining to the earlier post “Route 1, Too Big To Fail”. We’re in Central New Jersey, “an emerging logistics hot spot”, where Amazon will next year have a mega-warehouse in Robbinsville as well as a smaller one in Woodbridge/ Avenel, the latter one being for its new grocery shopping service – which launched in San Francisco yesterday.

        Between all the automation-oriented and truck-intensive developments such as this, and the fact that many of us are faced with longer commutes in this economy, it’s hard to imagine any diminishment of the traffic volumes on Route 1 over the next decade.

  3. Valerie Haynes says:

    Whether we like it or not, there is a great deal of traffic passing through Princeton on its way to or from destinations outside of town. That traffic will continue to increase. The traffic studies done for ASUP are just the most recent documentation of this. Province Line Rd could carry some of that traffic and help keep the core of town safe for walkers and bikers. Of course any plans to improve Province Line should include lanes for bikes and pathways for pedestrians, but this road needs to also serve cars.

  4. Sheldon Sturges says:

    Valerie has it right.

  5. Pingback: First Look: 255 Nassau Street ‘Plan B’. | walkableprinceton

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