Reactions to the WWBPA’s Recommendations for Route 571

Let's see the right changes to this dangerous road.

The WWBPA’s recommendations in response to Mercer County’s “concept” plan for Princeton-Hightstown Road/Route 571 are getting plenty of attention.

Please take the time to read our lengthy comments aimed at making this busy stretch of roadway safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists and making it more in keeping with the Main Street our town deserves. Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts about what needs to be done.

The key points are:

  • Reduce speed to 25-30mph, per state guidelines;
  • Landscaped medians with left-turn cutouts and pedestrian refuges? rather than a two-way left turn lane;
  • Pedestrian-activated signal that stops traffic at Sherbrooke Drive. This can be done as a first step, before the millions of dollars needed for the full concept plan is found.

Councilwoman Linda Geevers wants a formal response from the engineers and/or consultants to the recommendations and suggested that they may want to meet with us.

Resident Larry McGill wrote in a neighborhood forum: “The WWBPA is demonstrating once again what a tremendous asset it is to our town.? The safety issues related to this stretch of 571 require exactly the kind of careful thought and analysis you’ve provided here.”

Former WWBPA officer Meg Chicco wrote:

“Many thanks to you and the WWBPA for your efforts to keep 571 at the top of the list. It has been a long process to get it this far and we have to keep pushing to make sure it doesn’t slip in the list of priorities.

I just want to comment on item #2. As you know the Mayors Task Force (bike/ped life before WWBPA) took an active role in working with the County and the Township to help design the plan that we have today. Some time during that process the idea of medians was proposed. The County was adamantly opposed to this idea for some very practical reasons.

  1. The road would have to be significantly wider to accommodate medians. This would require more taking of property and a greater engineering cost.
  2. Since the County is responsible for 571 maintenance they opposed medians due to upkeep and the difficulty they present for plowing.Landscaped medians (and ordinary ones as well) require maintenance.
  3. Since the properties along 571 would eventually change (we hope) with some being consolidated (we hope) the placement of driveways and cross-overs are yet to be determined.
  4. As for the change in speed-limit and a signal at Sherbooke, these are improvements that would not effect the current design.

If I recall correctly the Council passed a resolution with regard to the improvments on 571. If they didn’t back when the design was proposed they should now. If a resolution was passed, what is the effect of this resolution with regard to the obligations of the Township to press for these improvements?”

Once again, please leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts about how to improve this road. Thank you! To see comments already entered, please click on Comment here or below.

8 Responses to “Reactions to the WWBPA’s Recommendations for Route 571”

  1. Ikons694 says:

    It does not have to be a highway, but 40 mph is honestly fine for the section of road leading up to the high school. If they do want to lower speed, I agree however that changing the design THEN taking a new 85th percentile speed would be the way to go. And actually, the 85th percentile standard is generally considered the ONLY main factor in determining a speed limit, since the majority of drivers take into account other factors when determining the speed they drive. Its the wackos that cause the problems. Usually I see most drivers slowing down for cyclists and giving them space, even though they do not HAVE to because its the sensible thing to do….but some do not. Also, to be honest, many of the speed limits in princeton are oppressive and only make sense during congested times.

  2. Jerry says:

    The idea that drivers will go the speed they feel is safe in the context of the roadway conditions and surrounding land use is born out by many studies, and recognized by NJDOT’s Smart Transportation Guidebook.

    The WWBPA’s recommendations also recognize this, and call for all the different roadway design elements to support the desired operating speed for Rt 571, per the Guidebook, based on the objective of a Main Street for West Windsor.

    The Rt 571 project is West Windsor’s best opportunity to create a Main Street that will raise all our property values – the other parts of the Redevelopment Plan are at best stalled, maybe dead.

    The 85th percentile standard is important but only one of several factors involved. Context must drive our choice of desired operating speed, so our town can be livable, walkable and bikeable. Such a Main Street demands speed limits of 25-30mph, reinforced by the design elements noted in the recommendations per the NJDOT guidelines. When the 571 project is completed, motorists should feel comfortable driving those speeds, like they do in Princeton today.

    It’s worth reading the Guidebooks’ discussion of how focus on roadway classification (arterial, collector, etc.) alone contributes to inappropriate designs and how taking surrounding land use context (like the presence of schools and town centers) into account will make our roads usable for everyone. Just because 571 is a county road with a certain classification does not make it a highway – again look at Princeton, where their Main Street, Nassau St, is a state road.

  3. Ikons694 says:

    People are not going to slow down if the conditions do not warrant it. The speed limit has to fit traffic, period. This is called the ’85th percentile standard’. Its paragon in traffic engineering. Changing the speed limit, as others have said, will NOT slow traffic down and will just result in an annoying speed trap because the limit is too low for the road. And lowering the speed limit also does not cut down on tailgating, even though yes, you do need more space between cars at higher speeds (so the standard for what constitutes ‘tailgating’ is a little different at 45 than 30). However, low speed limits cause a discrepancy in traffic speeds where some try to obey and the rest just go a comfortable speed, leading to MORE tailgating. Low speed limits actually kill more people than appropriately set ones for this reason. Also, limits that are inconsistent with conditions breed disrespect for ALL traffic laws which makes the roads more dangerous.

    If speed limits fit the traffic conditions (many do not now), traffic would be calmer and less accidents would occur. Examples: 1) 90 mph limit on the turnpike, no limit in the left lane 2) 70-75 mph limit on route 1 depending on the area, 60 mph in congested areas during rush hour only 3) 75-80 mph limit on route 133, 60-65 mph approaching the end, etc. The limit should be the LIMIT, its been shown that drivers do not automatically do ’10 over’, this is only when its too low. The limit should generally be so that driving 5-10 below the limit is a reasonable speed, not what it is now.

  4. silvia says:

    The plan calls for narrowing 571 between Cranbury Road and Clarksville Road by including two-way turn lanes and wider shoulders/bike lanes. Complete Streets is all about making the roadway safe for all users, not just for those driving through. Try crossing 571 to get to the Acme shopping center — it’s hard enough already!
    Cutting down on tailgating? Great idea. But you need more space between cars if the speed limit is higher. And people wouldn’t get angry if police enforced the law but would if everyone slowed down?

  5. Ikons694 says:

    25 or 30 mph would be crazy, the road isn’t designed for that because its too wide. Thats a residential neighborhood speed. Just step up enforcement on tailgating and see the accident problem go greatly down, thats the greatest problem around here. Also if you put the speed limit too low, some will follow it, some wont, resulting in MORE accidents, congestion, and road rage.

  6. sandy says:

    State Senator Bill Baroni sent a letter to Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes on January 15, 2010. Senator Baroni urges County Executive Hughes to address the WWBPA concerns regarding County Route 571 in Princeton Junction. To read the letter go to
    https://wwbpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/BaroniLetter1.pdf

  7. JerryFoster says:

    Hi Meg,

    Thanks for the background on the two-way left turn lanes (TWLTL’s) and
    medians. I have to say the research on TWLTL’s and medians was the
    most surprising to me.

    1. Width – I’m not sure why a median would have to be wider than the
    proposed 14 ft TWLTL. I looked at the median in the Village Center in
    Plainsboro, and would be very surprised if it was more than 8 ft – it
    could be less, I was just driving by.

    2. Cost – the studies cited showed that medians were 5-10% less
    expensive to build and 40% less expensive to maintain.
    It even said this finding surprised most designers.

    I’m not sure about the difficulty for plowing, since a TWLTL would
    have to be plowed while a median would not, and is usually where the
    snow ends up. The studies cited storm water management as another
    advantage of medians, since square feet of pavement directly affects
    the sizing of the drainage system, while medians both reduce that size
    and absorb water.

    3. Both TWLTL’s and medians need maintenance. TWLTL’s require
    restriping, resurfacing and sweeping or plowing. I believe median
    landscaping maintenance would be well worth the cost, since an
    attractive town center raises property values for all, while a TWLTL
    is in my view a visual liability, not an asset.

    4. I would like to learn more about driveway density and the use of
    TWLTL’s – it seems to me that there are a couple of stretches that may
    not lend themselves to cut-out left turn lanes, if every driveway is
    to be served separately. It seems reasonable to me these could be
    served by a short section of TWLTL, if the driveways cannot be
    consolidated and no pedestrian crossings are located there.

    5. The research shows that just changing the speed limit sign does not
    effectively slow traffic – people drive the speed they naturally feel
    comfortable with, depending on the roadway width, traffic, surrounding
    buildings, other visual clues. Medians, especially with trees, help
    calm traffic by presenting a visually narrower roadway. Implementing
    a HAWK signal can be done independently – it was great to see them
    included for in the new version of the MUTCD standards (traffic
    control devices like signals and signage).

    I’m encouraged by Linda Geevers’ call for a response from the
    engineers, and look forward to seeing this implemented. I view the
    Redevelopment Plan as key because it documented our objectives for
    this area – now it’s up to our leadership, with our support, to make
    it happen.

    Jerry

  8. HBMurphyJr says:

    I mailed a letter today to the Town Council supporting the “The WWBPA?s recommendations in response to Mercer County?s ‘concept’ plan for Princeton-Hightstown Road/Route 571”. Henry Murphy

    January 12, 2010

    Town Council
    P.O. Box 38
    West Windsor, NJ 08550

    RE: West Windsor Pedestrian Bicycle Alliance and Route 571

    Dear Honorable George Borek, Council President and the honorable Linda Geevers, Diane Ciccone, Kamal Khanna, and Charles Morgan:

    My heartfelt thanks for your tremendous dedication and service to the community.

    I write regarding the West Windsor Pedestrian Bicycle Alliance and Route 571.

    I have been a resident since the mid-eighties. My family and I often walk to the train. I have raised three children here, all of whom walked for many years to the various schools, and two of them were top cross country runners. My wife and I currently walk or jog twenty miles each week no matter the weather and we bicycle over one hundred miles each week in the favorable weather. Generally, blessed to live in this wonderful town, we do so right from our door. We have done about fifteen Anchor House 500 mile bike tours between us and we are active in the local bicycle and running clubs. We have done nine ironman triathlons between us and countless shorter ones.

    I am sure that there are many concerns in the township, most of which, I regret to say, are beyond my understanding. I am, as a result, extremely happy that talented and dedicated residents like yourself serve, even if residents less active, such as myself, may be cast in a less favorable light by the contrast!

    Nevertheless, on the issue of Pedestrian and Bicycle accommodations, I have known Jerry Foster and many of the members of the Alliance for a number of years and can be confident that the opinions they have developed and the analysis they have done can be relied upon more certainly than the opinions of any other experts in these matters.

    I hope you will support their recommendations.

    I remain,

    Very truly yours,

    Henry Murphy

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