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!