Loop-road bridge studies under way

A first step for Montgomery in dealing with Route 206-518 intersection.

By: Paul Sisolak
   MONTGOMERY — Preliminary environmental and design work for a bridge envisioned as part of a new township loop road has begun, according to Township Administrator Donato Nieman.
   The township has contracted two environmental consulting firms to perform wetland delineation testing on property where a new road connecting Orchard Road to Route 518 would run.
   Testing from TRC Omni in Montgomery and Stormwater Management in Ringoes, he said, will gauge the extent of possible wetland interruption and determine if a bridge can be built north of Route 518 near the ConvaTech building.
   "It’s necessary to see if there is wetlands disturbance," said Mr. Nieman.
   The property includes 82 acres of wetlands, the largest contiguous piece of its type in Somerset County, he said.
   The wetlands testing is mandatory in order to receive approvals and permits from the Department of Environmental Protection to build the bridge.
   The Orchard Road connector is one of the biggest elements in a series of new loop roads recently incorporated into the Master Plan in an attempt to divert traffic away from the Route 206-518 intersection and reduce the traffic problems that plague it during peak rush hours.
   If the road is built, it will be an important first step in implementing the Master Plan. From Orchard Road it would extend south, skirting the western edge of the Sharbell tract — which is scheduled to become the site of an age-restricted housing complex — before intersecting Route 518 near the Drake Farm and Bloomberg office complex. Another section of the loop road system would extend south of the new intersection at Route 518 skirting the Drake Farm and bend in an easterly direction to Route 206.
   The bridge, noted Mr. Nieman, is crucial to the future of the loop road.
   "If we can’t build the bridge, the loop road is not viable," he said. "But we believe it can be done."
   Most of the other loop roads included in the Master Plan circulate west of the intersection and north of Princeton Airport through a planned mixed-use center known as the Castaneda Tract.