At Tuesday's Township Council meeting, a resolution was passed to apply for various Department of Transportation grants for bikeway improvements, including for the nearly one-mile stretch from SBHS to the shopping center.
"It's one of the most important locations for pedestrian safety and we need to have dedicated sidewalks," said Public Affairs Coordinator Ron Schmalz. "The shopping center itself gets a lot of vehicular traffic, but also pedestrian traffic from students at the high school and seniors that live along Stouts Lane in the Villagio and Fresh Impressions developments."
Enhancing pedestrian safety for students has been a priority for the past few years, as members of the SBHS student body began actively lobbying the council for a walkway in 2011. Student Council members presented a petition at the time with about 2,000 student and parent signatures urging South Brunswick to complete the sidewalk running from Stouts Lane to Route 1.
"The road has blind curves that large buses travel on and there's no shoulder," said former Student Council President Ian Moritz at a meeting in 2011. "The walk to the mall from the high school is exceedingly dangerous."
A survey conducted by the Student Council in 2011 indicated an average of 10 students per day make the walk from SBHS to the mall for work and various other purposes.
Because the area to be completed runs over a stream, a small bridge would need to be constructed as well, which requires DEP approval.
"The council has been very concerned about this since the (shopping mall) was developed and we need to get that sidewalk put in so students can easily travel (Stouts Lane) without having harm caused to them," said Mayor Frank Gambatese in a prior interview. "We need to cross that stream, so a design needs to be created and sent to the DEP. Funding for this could be an expensive proposition."With the recent approval of a new ShopRite to be built in the Target shopping center, Schmalz said the township is now confident it can secure the funding to finish the walkway for pedestrians as part of the Freedom Trail Bikeway. The Freedom Trail will eventually run on the western side of Route 1 by Stouts Lane, across New Road and then back to Ridge Road.
On the other side of town, the Freedom Trail will run from Ridge Road in Kingston to Route 1. The Freedom Trail project is expected to cost about $500,000 and will be paid for by a grant from the Department of Transportation.
"People will soon be able to park their car in Monmouth Junction and ride a bike to the shopping center on Route 1," Schmalz said.
Schmalz added that the grant will likely take about six months to go through, and he's hopeful the pathway could be completed on Stouts Lane some time in 2014.
"That will give us within the last three years about three miles worth of bike paths that have been added in the township," he noted. "These get used not only by bikers, but walkers as well."