Princeton Township officials are calling on the state Department of Transportation to replace the Alexander Road bridge before any closure of the jughandles on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street becomes permanent.
“The bridge is only 20 feet wide, and it is not wide enough for two large vehicles to pass each other, like a bus or a truck,” Princeton Township Engineer Bob Kiser said at a Township Committee meeting last night as he showed slides of a Princeton University bus going over the bridge.
“Buses are approaching the center line due to the narrowness if the bridge,” Kiser said. “When a bus or large vehicle approaches, it stops traffic on the other side.”
The right of way for the bridge is only 36 feet wide, but in order to replace the bridge with a widened one, 50 or 60 feet of right of way is needed, Kiser said. The land on both sides of the bridge is preserved under the state’s Green Acres program. The state would need to approve a bigger right of way. The area is also part of a historic district.
“Statehouse approval is quite a process,” Kiser said. “It could be very time consuming.”
Committeeman Bernie Miller noted that the bridge is only 240 inches wide, but one of the buses depicted in Kiser’s slides is 128 inches wide.
“You cannot get two buses across that bridge at the same time. What is even more of a concern is that the large rescue vehicle used by the Princeton First Aid an Rescue Squad are 108 inches wide,” Miller said. “If the state makes the changes to Route 1 permanent and diverts traffic from Trenton along Route 1 up Alexander Road, the number of buses, semi-trucks and other large vehicles on the bridge will increase, and there will be an increased likelihood that we will need to get emergency equipment like fire trucks across the bridge. But the bridge will be tied up.”
Miller suggested that Princeton Township tell the state after the 12-week jughandle trial is over not to make any changes permanent until action is taken to widen the bridge. He suggested that Princeton University and Princeton Borough officials could sign a joint letter addressed to the DOT commissioner.
“We need to try and get the state to recognize that while the jughandle closures may improve the flow of traffic on Route 1, the changes are creating a risk for the residents of Princeton Borough and Township,” Miler said.
Kristin Appelget, director of community and regional affairs for Princeton University, said the university continues to join the Princetons in expressing concerns about the ongoing jughandle trial and would probably support a letter or resolution on the bridge issue.
Officials noted that traffic has started to back up on Alexander Road in recent days. Drivers traveling north on Route 1 who want to head into Princeton must take Alexander Road into town or must drive all the way to Scudders Mill Road and head back south on Route 1 to take Harrison Street or Washington Road into town. Sometimes traffic is backed up along Alexander all the way from Route 1 to the Wawa area. Cyclists have expressed concerns about biking along the bike lane on Alexander Road because of all the extra traffic.
The Borough and Township plan to add a feature to their websites so residents can write in what their trip times are if the have problems.