New Jersey Department of Transportation officials have announced a pilot project to study the effectiveness of a pedestrian-only signal phase, known as an “exclusive pedestrian phase,” at the intersection of Nassau Street and Washington Road in Princeton.
Beginning on Monday, June 10 and continuing for two weeks until Friday, June 21, the NJDOT will be testing an exclusive pedestrian phase, also known as a pedestrian scramble, at the intersection. The exclusive pedestrian phase traffic signal operation allows pedestrians to cross in any direction, even diagonally, while all vehicle traffic is stopped.
The pedestrian must push the button on the existing traffic signal pole to initiate the pedestrian phase, and then wait until the white walk symbol lights. Pedestrians will have about 39 seconds to cross the intersection while vehicles have the red light. This will occur every 90 to 132 seconds if the pedestrian button is pushed. Currently, no right turns on red are allowed and this will continue, officials said. During the exclusive pedestrian phase, all traffic will have a red light and turning on red will continue to be prohibited.
The study is being done at the request of Princeton officials. The NJDOT has a responsibility for providing safe pedestrian accommodations on state roadways while not increasing traffic congestion and gridlock on a critical roadway through any town, state officials said. Balancing these concerns is paramount for any roadway improvements NJDOT considers, officials said, adding that upon completion of the trial, the NJDOT will review the findings to determine what is best in terms of safety and operational performance at the intersection for all users.
At the town’s request, the NJDOT made pedestrian and safety improvements to the intersection of Nassau Street and Washington Road (which turns into Vandeventer Avenue) in 2016. Due to the non-standard geometry of the roads, the traffic signal phase for Washington Road and Vandeventer Avenue was changed so that both approaches no longer get a green at the same time.
State officials said the main advantage of an exclusive pedestrian phase is that during the pedestrian-only phase, all traffic has a red light and no turns are allowed, which eliminates the conflict of turning vehicle and pedestrians. The main disadvantage is the signal will have five phases, rather than four phases. This creates longer wait times for vehicles while pedestrians are crossing, and for pedestrians when vehicles have the right of way.