Montgomery traffic forum focuses on congested interesection

A plan to unclog the intersection of Route 206 and Route 518.

By: Steve Rauscher
   MONTGOMERY — The township Traffic Circulation Committee presented a plan Thursday night to unclog the heavily congested intersection of Route 206 and Route 518, apparently impressing the 30 or so residents who turned out for the committee’s public forum.
   Thursday night’s meeting was the second forum held by the committee, which formed over a year ago to address the township’s traffic quandaries. Those in attendance focused most of their attention on the committee’s proposals regarding the township’s busiest intersection.
   Township traffic consultant John Rea explained the complex plan with the aid of a colorful computer map, highlighting the troublesome corner and the trio of new roads the township hopes to build in order to improve it.
   "That intersection is currently operating at level F," Mr. Rea said. "That means that people have to wait more than 80 seconds to get through the traffic light from any direction during rush hour."
   If the township is able to implement its improvement plans, he said, the level of service would probably improve to a C, a significant change. The key to the proposal is the construction of a road — called Proposed Road A on the township’s map — south from Route 518 near Route 206. The road would intersect with another new street —Proposed Road B — running east-west from Route 206 just north of Princeton Airport. A third road, Proposed Road C, would run west from Route 206 and intersect Proposed Road A at about its midpoint.
   All left turn movements from any direction at the Route 518-Route 206 intersection would be prohibited. Commuters headed north on Route 206 destined for westbound Route 518 would therefore be diverted onto Road B at its signalized intersection with Route 206. They would proceed north on Road A, and make the turn onto Route 518 from there.
   Drivers headed from Route 518 to Route 206 would travel in the opposite direction, south on Road A. Those headed for 206 south would make a left at Road C, while those headed for 206 north would turn left onto Road B, and then left again onto Route 206.
   The transition from southbound Route 206 to eastbound Route 518 would be made via Roads C and A, with the two forming a sort of jughandle.
   By removing the left turn movements from the larger intersection and diverting traffic onto these newly constructed side roads, the township hopes to improve the flow of traffic on both Route 206 and Route 518, Mr. Rea said.
   "Some of these movements may appear circuitous and take some folks out of their way," Mr. Rea said. "But frankly, this will save those folks a lot of time. The net result of the analyses indicates that these roads will essentially do the job."
   Most township residents seemed satisfied with the plan, though some expressed skepticism.
   "You seem to be taking all of the traffic out of the intersection and putting it back into another intersection," Bob Christenson said. "Aren’t you really just creating another traffic jam?"
   "We’re not shifting the problem," Mr. Rea responded. "We’re spreading out the road network so people have more options."
   The plan conforms to the committee’s definition of "doable projects," and may represent just the first step in revitalizing that area, Mayor Louise Wilson said. The committee is, for example, working on a plan to connect Princeton North Shopping Center south of Route 518 to Montgomery Shopping Center, north of Route 518, in order to improve access for both cars and pedestrians, as well as reduce traffic.
   Proposed roads A, B, and C represent the third major road-building project the township has considered since January. The Planning Board recently added a road bypassing the Princeton Avenue-Route 206 intersection to the Master Plan, and plans to add another road connecting Orchard Road to Route 518 through the Sharbell Tract.