An improved walkable layout is likely to appear at the intersection of Nassau St and Witherpoon St in downtown Princeton (map). On Monday night, Princeton Council approved Resolution 21-109, in support of a concept plan by New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to improve pedestrian safety at this key intersection.
As reported previously at Walkable Princeton, NJDOT has been developing a proposal for improvements of the intersection of Nassau St and Witherspoon St. The new design would feature 8-ft sidewalk extensions on either side of the road, which would shorten the distance that pedestrians need to walk to cross the street (see diagram above and full-size image here). In addition, a new light cycle would be introduced so that pedestrians have a dedicated time to cross with all motorized vehicles stopped by a red signal. The new traffic signal equipment and curb ramps would be upgraded to be fully ADA-compliant. The right-hand turn lane from Nassau St into Witherspoon St would be liminated and replaced with a loading zone in front of the Hamilton Jeweler’s store.
The resolution notes that the intersection is currently “severely congested and experiences high pedestrian volumes which result in conflicts with vehicles”. The intersection is directly in front of the FitzRandolph Gate, the key ceremonial entrance to Princeton University, and is used by many students. In 2019, two Italian visitors attending an economics conference at Princeton University were struck by a vehicle while crossing at this intersection, leading to serious injuries. Despite this, the Princeton Historic Preservation Commission opposed the installation of curb extensions in this historic area. The State of New Jersey Historic Preservation Office was also consulted on the project, and they considered safety to be the paramount priority.
The new intersection will be installed around the same time as the permanent conversion of the downtown blocks of Witherspoon Street to one-way north-bound circulation. This change was approved by Council in late 2020, with the goal of making the downtown more pedestrian-friendly and supporting outdoor dining by downtown restaurants. As reported previously at Walkable Princeton, a nearby bus-stop is being relocated to create additional parking for downtown merchants, and the taxi stand is being eliminated.