Proposed traffic light could be temporary fix

The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s plan for traffic-calming measures would eliminate the approved traffic signal at the dangerous intersection of Swan Street and Route 165.

By: Linda Seida
   LAMBERTVILLE — The new traffic signal planned for a hazardous intersection hasn’t even been installed yet, but the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s controversial Route 29 Gateways Project calls for its removal.
   And if, somehow, the DOT’s plans for Route 29 don’t kill the traffic signal, a DOT review in two years could.
   The recently approved signal that will be installed at Route 165 and Swan Street is essential because of the "extremely dangerous" nature of the intersection, which is part of a half-mile stretch of roadway where about 10 percent of the city’s accidents occur, according to Police Director Bruce Cocuzza.
   Last year, a pedestrian died from injuries sustained there while crossing the street on her way to work.
   In a letter from the New Jersey Department of Transportation to Mayor David Del Vecchio dated Jan. 9, the DOT listed seven conditions that had to be met in order for Lambertville to receive DOT approval for the traffic light. The seventh condition states, "The signal will be removed as part of the Route 29 Gateways Project construction."
   The fifth condition states, "The NJDOT reserves the right to review the operation of the signal two years after installation and may require Lambertville to remove the signal if it has degraded the operation of Route 165."
   The letter was signed by Traffic Engineering and Investigations Manager Douglas R. Bartlett.
   If the DOT determines the signal must come out, Lambertville will be required to reimburse the DOT for the cost of removal.
   Despite the stipulations, Mayor Del Vecchio is optimistic the new traffic signal will remain in place once it’s installed if it improves conditions at the intersection.
   "We’ll see how it works," Mayor Del Vecchio said. "If it works, then I’m going to make sure it’s part of the plan. From my perspective, if it works, it’s there."
   DOT spokeswoman Erin Phalon said the state’s Route 29 Gateways Project "involves traffic-calming measures that would render a light unnecessary."
   Ms. Phalon said she could not provide specifics on what types of traffic-calming measures are planned.
   "I can’t speculate on the possible safety measures," she said. "Nothing is finalized yet."
   At a public information meeting held at the Justice Center in December 2005, the DOT laid out a plan that calls for three roundabouts, a lower speed limit, changes to some intersections, additional on-street parking plus better accommodation of pedestrians and bicyclists.
   Also, along routes 29 and 165, the four lanes of traffic would be reduced to two lanes with a center lane for turns. Along Route 179, four lanes would be reduced to one southbound lane and two northbound lanes.
   A start date has not been set for the Route 29 project, according to Ms. Phalon.
   "The city is involved in the planning," Ms. Phalon said, noting two members of the City Council are acting as liaisons to the DOT.
   Last year, Mayor Del Vecchio appointed Ron Pittore and Cynthia Ege as the city’s liaisons.
   Additional information will be released before the Route 29 project gets under way, and although no dates have been set yet, meetings with Lambertville residents will be announced, Ms. Phalon said.
   The Route 29 project is still in the planning process, according to Ms. Phalon.
   "The department hasn’t completed the feasibility assessment at this point," she said.
   Some residents have been quite vocal in their dislike of some of the planned improvements. Many objections center on the roundabouts. Traffic engineers say roundabouts slow traffic and improve safety, but some business owners have said they fear the configuration will harm their businesses.