In October 2014, a father and his 8-year old son on the D&R Canal trail in Princeton were struck by a car while crossing Washington Road. The crash sent both to hospital with serious injuries. Although Princeton Council quickly passed a motion calling for a crosswalk to be added at the unmarked trail crossing, the crosswalk is still delayed almost one year on. Now, thanks to reporting in the ‘Princeton Packet’, we have learned that Mercer County, which operates Washington Road as CR 571, has not yet even approved a plan for a crosswalk. The proposal is stuck, as Princeton’s Historic Preservation Commission ponders what design meets their requirements for ‘aesthetic concerns’. Meanwhile, an unsafe condition persists, and trail users are being put at risk every day.
In particular, the Historic Preservation Commission seems fixated on finding a ‘less-intrusive’ design for beacons that would indicate to car and truck drivers that a trail crossing is present. From a traffic safety perspective, however, the entire point is to find an instrusive design. If the design blends in so that drivers don’t see it, then it is failing in its job of indicating the presence of the trail. Given that there is already a massive, busy road running through the site, it seems bizarre to worry about an intrusive crosswalk design. The quibbling again suggests that the needs of walkers and cyclists are a low priority in Princeton, and the slow pace of approval calls into question whether the Historic Preservation Commission should have oversight of road design.
Mercer County should never have allowed a road design with no crosswalk for the D&R Canal Trail at Washington Road. Nearby trail crossings of Alexander Road and South Harrison Street both have upgraded crosswalks, and of the three roads, Washington Road is the one with the highest posted speed limit. Mercer County has endorsed a ‘Complete Streets’ policy, but this intersection is clearly dangerous by design. The County Freeholders are now compounding the previous failure to conduct an appropriate risk assessment by failing to expedite construction of a new crosswalk. Instead of finger-pointing, we need a safe trail crossing now, and a renewed commitment to the safety of people walking and on bikes.