Princeton Township officials will ask the state Department of Transportation to delay permanently closing the jughandle turns off Route 1 until the Alexander Road bridge can be widened.
With left hand turns prohibited off Route 1 north onto Washington Road and Harrison Street and Quaker Road closed for repairs through February 2013, the only remaining access into Princeton from Route 1 north is via Alexander Road.
The bridge over the canal, however, is only 20 feet wide, too narrow for most busses or emergency vehicles to pass unless traffic in the other direction stops to let it pass.
There have always been plans to widen the bridge, but to do so would require both Statehouse approval for a right away through Green Acres land and state historic preservation approval to build within a historic district, Township Engineer Robert Kiser told Township Committee on Monday.
Still the project could take years to come to fruition and then at least six months for construction Kiser said.
“We’re setting ourselves up for some real problems (if the jughandles are closed),” Kiser said. “We’re concerned that the number of busses, 18-wheelers and other large vehicles will increase and increase the likelihood of needing to get emergency equipment across the bridge and the bridge will be tied up because there are large vehicles crossing.”
The state is currently in the midst of a 12-week trial closure of the Route 1 jughandles in order to speed up through traffic on Route 1. If the pilot project is a success, the state plans to make the closures permanant.
Township officials plan to send a letter to the state requesting the jughandle closures not become permanent until the bridge can be widened. They hope the Borough, Princeton University and the Princeton Theological Seminary will also sign the letter.
Morning commuter traffic into Princeton on Alexander Road is already backing across Route 1 in recent days, officials said, Kiser said.
But the issue is one of safety, Princeton Township Committee Member Bernie Miller said.
“Traffic inconvenience is one thing, but something that could put lives or property at risk is another thing,” Miller said. “If you have a situation where you could not get an emergency vehicle across the bridge due to traffic backup of other vehicles trying to get across that bridge, it’s not acceptable.”