Truck traffic on Route 206 deserves debate


   The Route 206 Coalition, a group of concerned residents from Lawrence and Princeton, has proposed that trucks be banned from Route 206 except those making deliveries within 4 miles of the stretch of road that runs through the towns.
   It’s too early to decide this proposal one way or another, but it does raise some interesting questions.
   The existing truck ban requires drivers of 102-inch-wide trucks not making local deliveries to use the National Truck Network. The primary roads in New Jersey on the network are the New Jersey Turnpike, the Interstate highway system and Routes 29, 31, 518 and 206.
   The coalition believes the ban does not offer enough protection for the Lawrence and Princeton stretches of Route 206. The group says the roadway is a narrow and winding road with virtually no shoulders, limited sight distances and has road configurations that make it unsafe for heavy trucking.
   The coalition says these problems, along with the concentration of schools and parks along the road, should make the case for a ban on large trucks that have no business in Lawrence or Princeton.
   Our biggest question has to do with Lawrence and Princeton and whether these communities are uniquely over-burdened with truck traffic, which would certainly demand the creation of this special rule.
   Every community could not adopt this measure. If that happened, the only way to deliver goods within the state would be by foot.
   Should the Legislature and the governor enact a rule that would only benefit Lawrence and Princeton?
   Are trucks that travel Route 206 such remorseless offenders of the law currently on the books, that this ban should be altered to include special provisions for this area?
   Or do our communities benefit in some way from being in the center of all this commerce and ratables?
   And, if they do not, is 4 miles enough?
   Quaker Bridge Mall, Mercer Mall, Rider University, Bristol Myers-Squibb Co., Nassau Park, Princeton Pike Corporate Center, Educational Testing Services, Greenacres Country Club, Princeton Country Club and countless entities in Princeton Borough including Princeton University and The Medical Center at Princeton all are within 4 miles of Route 206.
   These entities receive regular deliveries by truck, all of which would be exempt from the proposed ban.
   So, would the proposed rule have enough teeth to offer adequate relief?
   And how would this new rule be policed. Local departments can’t pull over truck drivers who may be in violation of the current truck ban. That power rests with the New Jersey State Police, who has had reasonable success enforcing the existing ban by setting up a special detail at checkpoints on the shoulder of Route 1.
   Where on a two-lane road with virtually no shoulder could the State Police set up such a checkpoint?
   And if the power to stop these trucks was to be placed in the hands of local police, would voters support the additional taxes that would be needed to pay for the additional patrol officers necessary to adequately perform these duties?
   Whether the 4-mile proposal is a good or bad idea is not currently at issue. The coalition’s job right now is to get the word out, providing opportunity for discussion. The debate that ensues should serve to determine if the idea has merit enough for legislative action.