Check out the photo above- a section of sidewalk was lifted by a growing tree root, creating a trip hazard for pedestrians. Thanks to remedial action by the Princeton Public Works department, the situation has been much improved. Specifically, they have sheared off the concrete edge that was raised by the growing tree. You can see this as the light patch in the sidewalk- the edge has been ground down to make a smooth surface.
Remediated pieces of sidewalk like this can be seen all around the Witherspoon-John neighborhood. It looks like our municipal staff have been busy fixing sidewalks recently. That’s good. In 2013, Princeton passed an ordinance meaning that residents would no longer have to pay for sidewalk maintenance associated with damage from street trees. That means that there are fewer issues to resolve before maintenance like this can take place. By contrast, in nearby Highland Park, NJ, the local council kicked off a firestorm of protest last year after assessing thousands of dollars worth of sidewalk maintenance costs on local residents. Princeton is getting it done, and that is to be welcomed. If you see other sections of sidewalk that need to be repaired, make sure to let the right people know by reporting it at Access Princeton.
Of course, this temporary fix won’t stop the tree from growing and disrupting the sidewalk again. This is a widespread problem with street design in Princeton, where street trees and pedestrians (and usually cyclists too) are forced to share a narrow strip at the side of the road, so that the maximum amount of space can be dedicated to cars. If very large street trees are considered appropriate for a downtown environment such as this, they would be much better situated in bump-outs in the road. Consider this example, which shows how to make room for a happy tree without disrupting the sidewalk.