There’s no getting around all this traffic


By: Packet Editorial
   First it was Hodge Road, then Mercer Street, then Prospect Avenue. Then came Rollingmead and Harrison Street. Now it’s Hamilton Avenue.
   Residents of these Princeton streets may not be able to decide, even among themselves, whether they want speed humps or neckdowns or islands or raised sidewalks or bike paths or traffic lights or on-street parking or dummy police cars to slow down traffic on their block — or, better yet, remove it from their neighborhood altogether. But they do know they want some kind of traffic-calming devices installed along their all-too-popular streets — and they know if they yell loud and long enough, they’ll probably get them.
   That’s what residents of Hodge Road did, and they were rewarded with a combination of speed humps, traffic islands and neckdowns. Then Mercer Street got a trio of speed humps. Then Prospect Avenue got a couple of traffic islands. All courtesy of Princeton Borough.
   Not to be outdone, residents of Rollingmead took their case to Princeton Township, whose Traffic Safety Committee came up with a plan to install either a sidewalk or a bikeway, one or more neckdowns, some roadway striping and a footpath through the woods that would allow children to walk directly to Littlebrook School. (Unlike the borough, the township is averse to speed humps because they slow down fire and emergency vehicles.) This plan, or some variation of it, must ultimately be approved by the Township Committee.
   Last month, members of the Harrison Street Neighborhood Association met to start mapping out traffic-calming strategies for the portion of their busy thoroughfare that runs between Route 1 and Nassau Street. This may prove to be particularly problematic since it involves three jurisdictions: Princeton Borough, Princeton Township and West Windsor. It also involves a major artery that is much more heavily traveled than any of the streets previously chosen for traffic-calming devices.
   Interestingly, one of the complaints along Harrison Street is that traffic seems to have picked up, both in volume and velocity, since new traffic lights and raised cross walks were installed along Washington Road. In other words, they’ve discovered — not surprisingly — that traffic-calming devices aimed at easing problems on one street may actually exacerbate problems on a parallel street.
   Which brings us to Hamilton Avenue, where residents want to slow down all the motorists who like to use their street as a speedy alternative to congested Nassau Street. Put a few humps on Hamilton, they say, and the problem will be solved. For them, maybe. But consider the impact this would have on other streets. In all likelihood, combining several traffic-calming devices along Hamilton, Hodge and Rollingmead — which, together with Wiggins Street and Paul Robeson Place, are really the same street with different names and really do function as an effective alternative to Nassau Street — would simply shift crosstown traffic over to the next parallel street: Valley Road.
   Then, of course, the Valley Road Neighborhood Association (there may not be one now, but you can bet there will be if the traffic-calming craze stretches to all these other streets) will start squawking. Install a bike path, some striping and an island or two on Valley Road and, presto, the traffic will move over to Terhune Road. Meanwhile, on the other side of Nassau Street, the same phenomenon will be occurring, first along the Western Way-College Road-Ivy Lane route, then over on Faculty Road.
   Pretty soon, we’ll have neighborhood associations on every street — and an obstacle course of traffic-calming devices that extends from one end of town to another. And still the traffic will flow; like blood, if it finds one artery blocked, it will simply move to another. This will continue until there are so many blockages a more radical procedure will be required.
   Did somebody say bypass?