Roundabouts described as solution for Route 206 traffic

Firm reveals plan to make highway more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly

By: Marjorie Censer
   Princeton residents and officials got a taste of the changes in store for Route 206 at a Monday night meeting with representatives from one of the firms conducting the road’s $100,000 traffic analysis.
   Representatives from the Orlando, Fla.-based Glatting Jackson group said their initial idea is to implement roundabouts — road junctions at which traffic flows circularly around a middle island after first yielding to the circulating traffic — at the major intersections of the road. Additionally, they are considering adding pedestrian refuges in the center of the road, planting trees along the street and creating a better gateway from Princeton Township into Princeton Borough.
   The traffic analysis is being conducted by Glatting Jackson and the Philadelphia-based Urban Engineers. Funded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the study seeks to make the stretch of Route 206 between Nassau Street and Cherry Valley Road more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. The study also examines ways to preserve abutting neighborhoods and relieve truck traffic on the highway.
   Ian Lockwood, a representative of Glatting Jackson, said the firm is leaning toward using roundabouts because they increase the safety of intersections, make the road less attractive to trucks, require less additional land than traffic signals and are aesthetically pleasing.
   They "can process a lot of cars, a lot of pedestrians in a very safe environment," Mr. Lockwood told the large audience assembled at Township Hall. "If we can get a series of them, they’ll help slow down the entire corridor."
   He said roundabouts encourage slow but steady traffic, and are quieter than traffic signals because trucks do not have to come to a complete stop and then accelerate.
   "With a roundabout, we have what we call a slower, steadier speed profile," he said. "We want to do a series of roundabouts along the corridor so there’s no huge incentive to get up to high speeds in between them."
   Representatives of Glatting Jackson also said they want to capture the differences of the neighborhoods along the roads, while still creating cohesion.
   "What we’re saying is it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution," said Raj Mohabeer, a Glatting Jackson representative. "We think that each one of these areas needs to have a distinct character."
   Attendees at the meeting were generally receptive to the idea of roundabouts but questioned the implementation of them. They said they wanted to ensure that the roundabouts would be practical and effective for both pedestrians and drivers, particularly during busy traffic hours.
   Mr. Lockwood assured those present that there are precise formulas that can be used to determine whether a roundabout will work with a particular level of traffic. In addition, he said using them throughout the highway will establish a cohesive look and theme for Route 206.
   "We’re really trying to avoid going the signal route," he said.
   Marvin Reed, former Princeton Borough mayor and a member of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton, questioned whether the improvements made to Route 206 will have a detrimental effect on nearby roads such as The Great Road and Harrison Street.
   Mr. Lockwood said his firm did not find that problematic in most of its other projects, but said the improvement of Route 206 should happen regardless.
   "It’s not a good enough reason not to do the right thing on 206," he said.
   Glatting Jackson consultants will work in Township Hall today and Wednesday to formulate what they call "starter ideas." Those ideas will be presented to the public at a follow-up meeting Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Township Hall. Members of the public can drop in today or Wednesday to watch the consultants as they work and make brief comments.