How Can We Tell a Main Street Roadway Design?

571/Wallace-Cranbury morning commute 4What is a Main Street and how can we tell a Main Street design when we see it? For West Windsor, this question is important because the county reviewed a Concept Design for Rt 571 in December?2009. Is it a main street design?

The Princeton Junction Redevelopment Plan adopted in March 2009 has a goal to “create a ?Main Street? through incremental development that would transform the existing strip commercial form of development along Route 571 into a village form, with buildings close to the street. The objective is to achieve a desirable mix of pedestrian-friendly, village scale development with an emphasis on uses that service local needs. A village character would be created by encouraging pedestrian flow and stores and shops and personal service establishments on the ground floor of buildings and the use of upper floors for offices and residential dwelling units.?

Excellent so far, but what of the roadway itself? How do we know if the street supports these planned uses, or if it’s pedestrian-friendly?

Fortunately for West Windsor, many communities have faced these issues in the past, and based on that experience NJDOT and PennDOT compiled a comprehensive and flexible set of design standards in the Smart Transportation Guidebook, published March 2008. Following is a high level introduction, with extensive quotations.

Why Smart Transportation?

“NJDOT and PennDOT cannot always solve congestion by building more, wider and faster state roadways. There will never be enough financial resources to supply the endless demand for capacity. Further, both states realize that the ‘wider and faster’ approach to road construction cannot ultimately solve the problem. … The desire to go ‘through’ a place must be balanced with the desire to go ‘to’ a place.”

Context Sensitive Design

“Roadways should respect the character of the community,and its current and planned land uses.? If appropriately designed,? vehicular speeds should fit local context. The concept of desired operating speed? … is key to the context sensitive roadway.”

Design Elements

Three kinds of design elements are described:

“Desired Operating Speed: This is the speed at which it is intended that vehicles travel.

Roadway: The design team should select roadway elements and geometry with a clear understanding of surrounding land uses.

Roadside: The roadside primarily serves the pedestrian and the transit rider and provides a transition between public and private space.”

Land Use Context

Seven land use contexts are described – Rural, Suburban Neighborhood, Suburban Corridor, Suburban Center, Town/Village Neighborhood, Town Center, and Urban Core.

Roadway Categories

Overlaying traditional functional categories, the guidebook describes a typology “which better captures the role of the roadway within the community.” These categories are Regional Arterial, Community Arterial, Community Collector, Neighborhood Collector and Local.

Main Street

“Main Street is characterized by:
? Wide sidewalks and regular pedestrian activity;
? Street furniture and public art;
? Heavy use of on-street parking;
? Speeds of 30 mph or less;
? Preferably no more than two travel lanes, although three to four lanes are seen on occasion.

The Main Street would typically belong to the Community Arterial road type, or to the Collector road type. This is the case on Route 27 in New Jersey; this roadway hosts two Main Street segments between New Brunswick and Trenton, in the towns of Princeton and Kingston.”

Tables are provided which describe the appropriate roadway design standards for each type of roadway and land use context.

Based on the provided descriptions, the WWBPA believes Rt 571 is a Community Arterial in a Suburban Center, with the plan to become a Town Center over time. The table for a Community Arterial in a Suburban Center recommends the following (in part):
Lane Width: 10 – 12 ft
Shoulder Width: 4 – 6 ft
Bike Lane: 5 – 6 ft
Median: 12 – 18 ft for Left Turn, 6 – 8 ft for Pedestrian
Clear Sidewalk Width: 6 ft
Desired Operating Speed: 30 mph

The WWBPA reviewed the proposed Concept Design for Route 571 against these and other Smart Transportation Guidebook design standards – please read our recommendations published January 2010.

The WWBPA believes the county engineers should consider these design standards in developing a Route 571 roadway that supports our goal of a Main Street for West Windsor. Please support our call for the engineers to review the design against the Smart Transportation Guidebook by contacting our public officials.

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One Response to “How Can We Tell a Main Street Roadway Design?”

  1. Brian says:

    Lots of on street parking tends to slow vehicle speeds down a lot and might actually work. I rarely see people going very fast in areas like that, its just the more open places.

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