DOT: Route 1 Jughandle Test to Take Place in 2012

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has confirmed that the Route 1 jughandles at Harrison Street and Washington Road will not be removed until some time next year.

Removing the jughandles is the DOT’s low-cost solution to making those intersections safer and easing congestion on Route 1.

DOT Spokesman Joe Dee said that under the trial program, which would be conducted for several months and then evaluated, left and u-turn movements for Route 1 northbound motorists at the Washington Road and Harrison Street jughandles would be eliminated.

The change is designed to prevent potentially dangerous queuing and congestion on the rightmost of three Route 1 northbound travel lanes in the vicinity of the two intersections, according to the DOT.

When the trial is implemented, motorists would use either the grade-separated Alexander Road interchange just south of Washington Road to enter Princeton, or use the grade-separated interchange at Scudders Mill Road north of Harrison Street to make a u-turn onto Route 1 southbound for access to right turns into Princeton at either Harrison Street or Washington Road.

Eastbound and Westbound Washington Road motorists will continue to have all three existing travel options – to Route 1 south, to Route 1 north or through to remain on Washington Road – at the Route 1 intersection.

The DOT will assess traffic conditions on Route 1 and nearby local roads prior to and after the proposal is implemented to gauge the effectiveness and practicality of the measure and will monitor for any potentially negative unintended consequences.

The Department is looking into ways to increase the effective capacity of Route 1 in this area to increase safety, officials said. Traffic in the Route 1 northbound rightmost live travel lane frequently comes to a standstill during peak periods due to queuing at the jughandles.

With the change, the DOT hopes to minimize inconvenience to motorists and to better accommodate emergency vehicles that will be using this stretch of Route 1 to access the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, which is scheduled to open in mid-2012.

DOT officials decided it would be best to implement the trial program after construction activity is concluded on Alexander Road and at the intersection of Harrison Street and Route 1. Originally there was talk of the trial taking place this past spring or this fall.

An exact time for the trial ha not been determined. “It will be some time after the widening of Harrison Street is finished, when the weather improves after the winter,” Dee said.

Princeton University Vice-President Bob Durkee told regional planning board members last week that he received a call from the DOT Commissioner notifying him that the jughandle trial would not start until October of next year. The issue came up in the context of concern about the potential traffic problems and added congestion that could result from the university’s proposed arts and transit neighborhood and other university projects. Durkee tried to assure officials that congestion would actually be reduced as a result of university plans, not increased.

Local officials, university representatives and Princeton residents have all expressed concerns about the DOT proposal, fearing the changes will create more traffic congestion along Alexander Road and Faculty Road, which already back up during rush hour.