The governing body for the municipality of Princeton is slated to decide Monday night whether to move a controversial municipal fueling station from Mt. Lucas Road or leave it where it is, in spite of the public outcry about the impact of the station from residents in nearby neighborhoods.
Officials will review recommendations from the town’s public works committee and, even though the meeting is billed as a “work session.” the council is slated to vote on accepting the recommendations and to authorize town employees to implement them.
The municipal public works committee reviewed three alternative sites for fueling stations that were recommended by a site plan review advisory board subcommittee: The existing fueling station on Harrison Street, an area near the Princeton Police Department, and property owned by the Princeton Public Schools on Valley Road. According to the report, there were significant issues with all three sites.
Public works committee members have recommended that officials do the following instead, at a combined cost of more than $120,000: keep the fueling station at the Mount Lucas location; move the fueling of some diesel public works vehicles to the Harrison Street location; remove the canopy on the Mount Lucas location, at a cost of about $22,000; install new lighting at the station to replace the canopy lighting, at a cost of $5,000; add landscaping to the Mount Lucas site at a cost of $13,347; extend the screening wall three additional feet so it will be nine feet high, at a cost of about $39,000; add brick veneer to the site to make appearance of station consistent with the new first aid squad headquarters, at a cost of about $47,000; remove a generator to improve the appearance of the fueling station; and explore making repairs to the River Road fueling facility to allow the fueling of vehicles there.
The new, expanded fueling station opened in the spring. Town officials decided to place it on what used to be the Terhune Road extension between Route 206 and Mount Lucas Road. The town spent almost $570,000 on the project. Access to Route 206 was closed off there, but another entry point was not added. The only road where residents can make a left to head south onto Route 206 from that area now is Cherry Hill Road. Residents said traffic has gotten much worse in the area with the road closure, that the fueling station has brought larger trucks to the area, and that the changes have caused dangerous conditions for school children who walk or ride bikes to school. Residents said the station canopy is an eyesore, and that bright lights shine into their homes at night.
At a tense council meeting in October, residents who live in neighborhoods near the fueling station chastised officials for what they said were poorly thought out fueling station plans that did not include public input. They also told officials they should be embarrassed by the project and their lack of responsiveness to residents’ concerns over the five months since people complained in April.
“The canopy is still there and it is hideous. If you lived across the street would you want that unkempt mess sitting across from you?” resident Dennis Scheil said, adding that the traffic at the intersection frequently backs up.
“It’s beyond horrible. There was no thought given to a plan, no traffic studies done,” Scheil said, adding that he and others worry that a child could get hit by a vehicle because the situation is so bad. and drivers are so frustrated.
Resident Paul Raeder reminded the mayor that she promised back in April that the canopy would be removed. “Five months later, why is it still there?” Raeder said at the October meeting. Resident Bob Holly said the current government in Princeton can’t seem to get anything done, and that officials were trying to blame a lot of the problem on the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT).
Mayor Liz Lempert said the NJDOT has denied requests to allow a left turn onto Route 206 from the Valley Road intersection since about 2014. Resident Jennifer Deming then questioned why the town went ahead with the project when the state had not given permission for the left turn, rather than waiting to work that out. “If the issue with the NJDOT has been longstanding, I’m surprised the fueling station was ever put up,” she told the council at the October public meeting.
Lempert told residents that officials were waiting to see which option was chosen for the fueling station location before the canopy would be removed. If the fueling station were to be moved, officials wanted the option of moving both the tank and the canopy. If the fueling station were to stay in its current location, the canopy would come down, she said.
Even though an official vote had not been taken yet as of last week, some people noted that work was already being done at the Mount Lucas station to make the location more permanent.
To read the reports from various municipal committees regarding the station, follow the link.
This story has been updated to include a correction/clarification regarding the mayor’s October statement about the canopy removal.