At their regular meeting on Monday night, Princeton Council discussed an ongoing question about sidewalks on Poe Road between Random Road and Route 27. Neighbors along this section of Poe Road have fought the plan to install sidewalks here, even though this improvement is part of Princeton’s municipal sidewalk masterplan. Despite the opposition, Council agreed in principle to move ahead with sidewalks last November, with only one member- Bernie Miller- voting against. But opposition has continued. Whereas municipal engineers had made plans for sidewalks on either side of the street, opponents in the neighborhood argued for just one sidewalk, on the western side of Poe Road. Council discussed this question in a work session, but ultimately decided to continue with the plan to build both sidewalks on either side of the street.
In the past, Princeton has added sidewalks on just one side of certain streets, and in other cases, we have put sidewalks on both sides. The sidewalk masterplan does not specify what is appropriate, hence the latest discussion. Existing sidewalks on Poe Road are on both sides of the road, in the section between Random Road and Shady Brook Lane.
Council members Howard, Crumiller, Butler and Liverman all said that they supported adding sidewalks on both sides of the road. Council member Patrick Simon, who earlier this year led opposition to bi-directional bike lanes on Hamilton Avenue, spoke in favor of scaling back the sidewalk plan, and adding a sidewalk on just one side of the street. Council member Jenny Crumiller opposed this idea, arguing that it is unreasonable to expect pedestrians to have to cross roads unnecessarily. Council member Butler pointed out the dangers of crossing roads, reminding Council about the recent case of a Princeton U. grad student who was seriously injured after being struck by a car while crossing Washington Road.
Council member Lance Liverman said that the recent decision by Council to fully fund sidewalk improvement projects from the municipal budget made him much more favorable toward the idea of adding both sidewalks. Residents previously had to pay 50% of the cost of sidewalks along their street, even though other roadway construction was paid for by the town. With this financial burden removed, Liverman felt that it was appropriate to move ahead with the planned sidewalks.
Last year, we argued that municipal funding of sidewalks was the right thing to do, to reduce opposition to sidewalk construction, and allow a safe network of paths to be completed around town. This is consistent with the goal of favoring reducing our dependence on cars. A new sidewalk is a new freedom to safely get between two points in town by foot. There are still significant gaps in our sidewalk network, and Council’s renewed commitment to closing those gaps is to be applauded.
See the discussion on Poe Road sidewalks yourself, in the video of the Princeotn Council meeting in the window below. The discussion about Poe Road begins at 1:24:00: