New Jersey Department of Transportation is considering an idea to reconfigure the jughandles on Route 1 and improve commuter traffic, following a failed experiment to close the jughandles last summer.
The area up for discussion would affect a stretch of Route 1 from the Dinky railroad overpass south of Washington Road intersection to the Millstone River bridge just north of Harrison Street, Princeton Engineer Jack West said.
NJ DOT Spokesman Joseph Dee said the new idea for the jughandles is just that: an idea.
"This is not a plan and this is not a project," Dee said. "This is a conversation starter and funding has not been identified."
"We made a commitment to the communities back when we pulled the plug on the no left turn pilot program to continue the dialog and look for solutions along this corridor. This is our effort to engage the community in a dialogue," Dee said.
Shortly after the trial program began last year, South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said the township received several complaints from residents impacted by the jughandle closures.
"We've heard many complaints already that it now takes 45 minutes just to go three or four miles to get to Harrison Street," Gambatese said last year.
Specifically, DOT is requesting feedback from officials in Princeton, West Windsor, Lawrence and Plainsboro on the following changes:
- Widening Route 1 to four lanes in both directions.
- Eliminating the jughandles at Washington Road and Harrison Street.
- Eliminating the jughandle and traffic light at Fisher Place in Penns Neck.
- Constructing new jughandles on either side of Route 1 approximately halfway between the Washington Road and Harrison Street intersections.
- Constructing a partial circle and light at Route 1 and Washington Road so that drivers traveling south on Route 1 could turn left onto Route 571 towards the Princeton Junction train station.
West said Princeton officials learned about NJ DOT's idea earlier this month. A preliminary cost to implement those changes would be $35 million.
Residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the jughandle idea at the Feb. 25 Princeton Council meeting, Mayor Liz Lempert said.
NJ DOT's experiment last fall to close the jughandles at Harrison Street and Washington Road was cut short after residents of the Penns Neck neighborhood protested over a massive traffic influx and commuters overrunning small residential streets in an effort to avoid traffic delays.
During the jughandle closure trial, drivers on Route 1 who wanted to travel into Princeton had to choose either Alexander Road or travel north on Route 1, cross the highway at Scudder's Mill Road, turn south onto Route 1 and then turn right onto Harrison Street or Washington Road.
With the new jughandle configuration, drivers headed north on Route 1 who want to get to downtown Princeton would use the new jughandle between Washington and Harrison, drive south on Route 1 for a short time before turning right onto Washington Road.
The land that would be used for the new jughandles is currently owned by Princeton University, West said.