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DOT Commissioner: Jughandle Trial is OVER

DOT Commissioner James Simpson arrived at a Saturday afternoon protest in Penns Neck with welcome news.

 

DOT Commissioner James Simpson arrived in Penns Neck on Saturday afternoon with welcome news to most area residents; he is calling an immediate end to the 12-week trial closure of the jughandles at the Washington Road and Harrison Street intersections with Route 1. 

The barrels, barricades and signs will be removed as soon as possible, probably starting in the next couple of days, Simpson told residents. 

By 10 p.m. on Saturday, nearby residents were already reporting the signs and cones had been removed. 

Drivers will also be allowed to make right turns from Route 1 north onto Varsity Avenue and Fisher Place, and left from Route 1 south at Fisher Place and Washington Road. 

The announcement came during a protest by neighbors in the Penns Neck neighborhood, just north of Route 1 towards the Princeton Junction train station. 

For weeks, neighbors have been telling both local and state officials about the problems on their local roads, including thousands of U-Turns and K-Turns on their streets, on their lawns and in their driveways. Tractor-trailers, looking for a shortcut, were a regular sight on these neighborhood roads, residents said.

But it seemed like few were listening until Sanja Dimic, who lives at the corner of Wilder and Washington Roads, noticed a car stopped on Wilder Road outside of her home on Wednesday.

"I walked out and said 'Are you lost, do you need directions to get into Princeton? We want our neighborhood back, will you sign our petition?" "And he stuck out his hand and said, 'Hi, I'm Commissioner Simpson,'" Dimic told Patch on Saturday. 

Neighbors in the close-knit community quickly learned of Simpson's arrival and walked out to tell him about the problems over the past two months. 

"Surprisingly, he said he hadn't received any of the hundreds of emails we've sent to DOT," Dimic said. 

Before Simpson left that day, he passed around his business card to residents and asked them to contact him directly. 

They did. And it seems the Commissioner listened. He arrived to meet with residents at about 12:45 p.m. on Saturday. 

"I received a call from the Mayor saying that the Commissioner was coming over," Penns Neck resident Tamerra Moeller said on Saturday afternoon. "He arrived and said they were calling an end to the experiment because of its negative impacts on Penns Neck. 

"He said the Christie administration was trying to be responsive to its citizens," she said. 

In a press release sent on Saturday evening, Simpson wrote that the trial program will be fully dismantled within a week. 

“We told local officials, residents and other stakeholders in the Princetons, West Windsor and Plainsboro that we would terminate the trial prior to its scheduled 12-week duration if we became convinced that unintended consequences could not be satisfactorily mitigated," Simpson wrote. "We are making good on that promise today.”

Despite the frustrations neighbors have experienced since the jughandle closures went up in August, they said Simpson was very gracious during his visit on Saturday. And they're pleased officials listened to their concerns. 

"I'm elated," said Sue Parris, who lives on Washington Road. "It was true community organization."

DOT's decision comes after several calls to end the jughandle trial. 

On Sept. 18 Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who represents West Windsor, asked the DOT to immediately end the trial. Later, both the Mercer County Freeholders and the West Windsor Township Council made the same request.  

Moeller said Simpson told the group on Saturday that closing the jughandles did accomplish one goal: improving travel times along Route 1, which can become congested along Route 1 during rush hour when drivers at the two intersections queue up to turn left at Washington Road and Harrison Street. 

But by closing access into Princeton from Route 1 north, traffic into Princeton was forced onto Alexander Road with commuters regularly reporting miles-long backups into town. Commuters driving home from the train at Princeton Junction also reported long backups and delays to cross Route 1. 

Exacerbating the problem was the county's decision to close Quaker Road for repairs through February. Quaker Road is an often-traveled route between Mercer Street and Route 1. 

Simpson said he made numerous unannounced visits to observe the area traffic conditions during the jughandle trial. 

“Unfortunately, the trial disrupted the Penns Neck neighborhood with additional traffic and created safety concerns," he wrote. "Our efforts to resolve those issues and guide motorists to the Scudders Mill interchange were unsuccessful. Increased congestion along Alexander Street in Princeton was also a concern.”

He plans to work with stakeholders to find a long-term solution to Route 1 traffic congestion. 

Some suggestions have included extending West Windsor’s Vaughn Drive to Washington Road, widening the Mercer County-owned bridge that spans the Delaware & Raritan Canal on Alexander Road and building an overpass near the intersection of Route 1 and Harrison Street.

The residents of Penns Neck had planned to hold another protest demonstration on Oct. 20, but plans have changed. 

"I think we'll have a party now," Sue Parris said.

Joe Budelis October 13, 2012 at 10:10 PM
That's Great News!!
Claudia Link October 14, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Not great news for those of us who have been stuck in traffic on Route 1. I have been commuting from Lawrenceville to East Brunswick for 26 years and the last several weeks have been so much better. The DOT should at least change the timing on the lights especially at Washington and Fisher.
Simon October 14, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Claudia: God help you! There should be NO traffic lights on Route 1 at all. They are a hindrance to the economic well-being of this area and, worse than that, deathtraps. Since the tome of Tom Kean, no one in Trenton has been listening. Then you have a worthless "forever" NJ assemblyman like Gusciora pretending to care. What a phony!
Simon October 14, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Don't email any State of New Jersey agency. Apparently, they don't know how to use email. Only send a certified letter.
catherine October 14, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Thank God the nightmare is over and the higher-ups realized their grave mistake, and reversed their stupid decision. I am just annoyed that months of our driving lives were wasted sitting in traffic while we acted as their little experiment!
John V October 14, 2012 at 02:35 PM
So after weeks of complaining by local residents, everything is returning to normal. Congratulations everyone, you've done it! Rt 1 is once again dealing with 2012 traffic volume with a 1960's traffic pattern. Great work, be sure to pat yourselves on the back.
Claudia Link October 14, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Months of your driving life sitting inn traffic, I've had 26 years of it. A few years ago the timing on the lights was adjusted and that helped. But the residents of Penn's Neck put up a stink because the wait on Washington was longer than before. No one wins in this situation. Many times I finally get to the light at Washington and look to my left and right, frequently there is little or no backup on Washington. Look behind me and I can see miles of traffic on RT 1. I won't even talk talk about the Fisher Place light as my blood pressure is already high enough. It is time for the DOT and local official to do something about this situation.
Joe Budelis October 14, 2012 at 04:55 PM
It certainly would be good to have a better solution to the Princeton area Rt 1 problems. Princeton University, which now owns the Sarnoff property, has offered to work with DOT to install an extended lane to the Harrison St jughandle. That could be a solution for the Rt 1 northbound congestion that DOT was trying to reduce. And, it's a solution that I do not believe will penalize or disadvantage anyone. Washington St is more difficult. However, Rt 1 southbound traffic desiring to turn east onto the Princeton Hightstown Rd could be handled by an extended jughandle through the field to the northwest of the Gulf station. By far the best solution at Washington Rd is an overpass. Of course the problem with that today is finding the monies to install it.
Simon October 14, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Catherine: Why? Because you aren't driving in another direction as the vast majority of people are? I live in Princeton, unfortunately, but you are just another selfish person who only cares about yourself and your selifish interests.
Simon October 14, 2012 at 09:09 PM
NJ DOT must eliminate ALL of the traffic lights on Route 1 by one means or another. That is the only solution.
Simon October 14, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Claudia: Coming from the south on Route 1 from PA, you should see what it's like to hit that murderous traffic light at Franklin Corner Road in Lawrence Township. You can travel for miles in PA on Route 1 without a light until you hit that killer. Now, they are planning to redevelop the "Mrs. G" property there, but I haven't yet read that they will eliminate that deadly traffic light. I had high hopes for change in NJ but now I just shake my head and hope that I can finally move south where the living is so much easier and cheaper!
Simon October 15, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Joe B: After nearly 30 years of "existence" on this horrible Route 1 corridor (not by personal choice!), I appreciate your concern and your involvement. I own property in North Florida where the taxes are a mere fraction of what they are here (great oublic schools!). Somehow, they have overpasses on their major highways that do not obstruct traffic. Where on earth they did they manage to get the money???? I'm not saying that they don't steal down there, but government officials steal far more here. I've been here since 1949 so I know.
Taxdollarsatwork October 15, 2012 at 04:10 PM
They should have left it closed. My commute went from 13 minutes to and from princeton to just over 22 minutes now. I work,for the state and its not fair that I,have,to,deal,with this cuz of some community fabricated safety concern only because they,dont like change. "Boohoo, theres a car driving down my street that never drove down it before.Boohoo. Crybabies
Taxdollarsatwork October 15, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Maybe,if those same crybabies made better use of their time on serious problems in our state something,would get done also, but just wanna waste their only shot on a stupid jughandle closing. Boohoo
Taxdollarsatwork October 15, 2012 at 06:40 PM
George W Bush for king of the USA
Taxdollarsatwork October 15, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Ever wonfer how its possible to screw up a name on a license? cuz we can.
Taxdollarsatwork October 15, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Add more lights
Taxdollarsatwork October 15, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Get a different job that u handle the commute to, or move closer to,your,job. East brunswick is a bad area anyways, dirty and smells like cat pee
Dan Daman October 15, 2012 at 08:54 PM
So what did Mayor Hsueh do . . . anything?
S M October 16, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I dont think you should be allowed to complain when your just passing through.... People like me that live here didn't only have to deal with the stupid closing of the jug handles for 5 days of the week we had it every single 7 days of the week all day and all night. BUILD AN OVERPASS WITH 4 LANES!
S M October 16, 2012 at 03:03 AM
For someone who works for the state your very immature...

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