Bridge panel awards funds to river towns

Lambertville and New Hope got a total of $1.81 million in the first round of funding. Stockton, which was passed over this time, is hoping for $2 million in the second round.

By: Linda Seida
   The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission approved $1.81 million in grants to Lambertville and New Hope, which were announced Monday as part of the $17 million first round of funding in the Compact Authorized Investment Program.
   Stockton’s $2 million application was not among the grants awarded to 10 communities under the $40 million grant program established by the commission last year to provide funding for transportation infrastructure related projects in New Jersey and Pennsylvania communities that host commission bridges. But the borough’s application still is under consideration for a future round of awards, according to commission spokeswoman Linda Spalinski.
   Lambertville will receive $1.56 million to fund three projects in the vicinity of the New Hope-Lambertville bridge. The bulk of the funds, $1,242,000, will fund the city’s traffic-calming plan, which will aid in the management of vehicular traffic and improve handicapped access and pedestrian safety. The project will be completed by 2008.
   "Obviously we’re pretty excited that the Joint Toll Bridge Commission funded our request for the three projects," Mayor David Del Vecchio said. "The funding will mean that the first citywide traffic-calming plan in the state will be funded, and that an issue that’s always important — that is, how fast people drive through neighborhoods — will now be addressed in addition to law enforcement and other measures."
   The city also received $158,000 to reconstruct Ferry Street and enhance vehicular and pedestrian access to the central business district and the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath. Mt. Hope Street improvements from the canal to South Union Street, funded with a $160,000 grant, will enhance access to Bridge Street and improve travel conditions. These projects are expected to be completed in 2006.
   Mayor Del Vecchio said streets and neighborhoods would be prioritized in the traffic-calming plan. Some neighborhoods, such as North Franklin Street, which drivers use as a cut-through, already have put in requests to be among the first addressed by the plan. He recommended other residents contact City Hall and make their wishes known.
   New Hope received a $250,000 grant for traffic signal reconstruction at the intersection of Bridge and Main streets and the intersection of Bridge Street and Sugan Road to help reduce traffic congestion and provide for improved pedestrian safety. The project is anticipated to be completed by 2006. The finished project will improve mobility through the borough and across the bridge and improve pedestrian safety.
   "It’s incredible," Mayor Laurence Keller said of the borough’s award.
   Pedestrian safety will be greatly enhanced with the addition of a walk-don’t walk sign.
   "Which is huge," Mayor Keller said. "Thankfully we’ve never had anybody killed there, but we have had injuries."
   The design of the lights will blend with the historic aesthetic of the town.
   "These grants recognize the important role that Lambertville and New Hope play in hosting commission river crossings by providing assistance to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion on and around commission bridges," said New Jersey acting Gov. Richard Codey in a written statement. "I am pleased that the commission is taking steps to help these local communities on both sides of the Delaware River facilitate travel between Pennsylvania and New Jersey and meet the growing demands on the local transportation infrastructure."
   In that same statement, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell said, "Communities like New Hope and Lambertville that host commission bridges face an ongoing challenge in meeting the traffic demands associated with the Delaware River crossings. Commuters, tourists and local residents will all benefit from these commission grants and the assistance they provide in mitigating congestion, enhancing traffic flow and improving pedestrian safety."
   Stockton Mayor Gregg Rackin expressed disappointment the borough was not named among this week’s grant winners.
   He said, "I think Stockton has a great proposal in with the commission. We remain hopeful it will be awarded or approved in the next round of approvals."
   Stockton’s proposal asked for $2 million for beautification, traffic calming and improvement for pedestrian safety, including the construction of crosswalks with raised walkways and center islands, guide rails along sidewalks adjacent to the bridge, curbing, sidewalks and lighting. Also included are improvements to the access area of the nearby state park system used by bicyclists and pedestrians.
   Commission Chairman Phil Mugavero and Vice Chairman Robin Wiessmann stressed this is only the first round of funding, saying in a prepared statement, "The commission will make additional grant announcements as we continue the process of reviewing proposals from other communities and conducting meetings with their elected officials."
   The first round of funding was approved after the commission’s Compact Authorized Investment Committee and commission staff reviewed grant proposals, determined grant eligibility and held meetings with elected officials and representatives from various communities. Economic development projects were not eligible for this program.
   A total of $16,976,110 in grant funding was approved Monday, including funding for Delaware Water Gap, Easton, Portland, Smithfield, Williams and Morrisville in Pennsylvania and Phillipsburg and Trenton in New Jersey.