Engineer outlines plans for transit village traffic
Says many upgrades would be necessary to handle increased volume
January 25, 2007
BY JENNIFER AMATO
NORTH BRUNSWICK - A South Brunswick resident who lives, works and travels in the area presented a traffic analysis study in regard to the proposed transit village development for the Johnson & Johnson site on Route 1.
Daniel DiSario, a licensed New Jersey traffic engineer who frequently travels Route 130 and other roads in North Brunswick, presented information about how a transit village could place the township on a higher priority list for the New Jersey Department of Transportation to make improvements to its major highways, with funding provided by state and federal authorities.
"There will be a very significant interest and effort to fix the existing bottlenecks around this site. They can't build a new train station and expect people to endure and deal with the existing bottlenecks," he said. "Having a train station will move the fixing up [higher] on the DOT list, and rightly so."
On Jan. 18, DiSario addressed over 60 residents about how his proposed traffic suggestions fall in accordance with the township's master plan recommendations that were adopted last year.
At Route 1 and Finnegans Lane, Route 1 could be widened to three lanes in each direction, Finnegans Lane eastbound could be widened to provide double left-turn lanes, and a new traffic signal could be installed.
"I bet if I poll all of you, all of you could tell me what the problems are at Route 1 and Finnegans," DiSario said. "The reason you're sitting there for a long time is because that is the point Route 1 goes from three lanes in each direction to two lanes in each direction."
At Route 1 and Commerce Lane, DiSario proposed re-striping the eastbound approach to enable double left-turn lanes and a shared through and right-turn lane to go south.
At Route 1 and Adams Lane/Cozzens Lane, new connections from Cozzens to Adams and out to Hartland Commons and out to Governor's Pointe will be needed. Also, if a bridge is constructed over Route 1 that connects to Adams Lane, the median at Route 1 could be closed off and therefore a vehicle could travel from Route 27, down Cozzens Lane, across Route 1 and over to Adams Lane, eventually leading to Route 130.
"If you take an intersection controlled by a traffic signal and put a bridge in, traffic will flow much more smoothly," DiSario said.
At Route 130 and Renaissance Boulevard East, the signal timing would be modified, and at Route 130 and Davidsons Mill Road/Finnegans Lane, an exclusive right turn going north and southbound onto Route 130 and an exclusive left turn eastbound would be created. Also, new connections between Route 130 and the surrounding roadways could be established through the Community Park or via Renaissance Boulevard, Finnegans Lane or Black Horse Lane.
In response, residents voiced concerns about using Renaissance Boulevard East or South because of the large number of children and the high density overall of the housing complex. Also upsetting those in attendance were the existence of wetlands on Finnegans Lane. Using that road as a major highway may not be safest for residents, some said, especially with its connection to the warehouses in South Brunswick, which could see Davidsons Mill Road as an alternate to the New Jersey Turnpike.
"All of these alternatives are ones we want to explore with the township and with the public," DiSario said. The best scenario or combination of scenarios will be looked at further, he said, while balancing the environmental impact, access to the site and residential concerns.
In regard to the traffic the site would generate, DiSario evaluated the Jersey Avenue train station, New Brunswick, as a case study. Although Jersey Avenue has 1,400 parking spaces and the proposed transit village would have 3,000, according to New Jersey Transit specifications, Jersey Avenue was the station nearest to the project site.
DiSario conducted traffic counts from 5 to 9 a.m. and from 2 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006, to pinpoint the one-hour time period that would generate the highest number of trips. He also used published standard trip rates that all engineers use to estimate the internal and external trips at a particular site.
In his studies, DiSario found that at Jersey Avenue, the hours of 7 to 8 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. generated the most traffic. Applying the information to North Brunswick, he said that 1,500 vehicles would enter and 250 would leave between 7 to 8 a.m. associated with the train station, and that 60 would come in and 900 would leave between 6 and 7 p.m.
He then compared the train station statistics to that of the existing zoning. Currently, the 212-acre property has 1 million square feet of warehouse space, which had 850 to 880 trips in and out during the morning, and 240 in and 730 out during the early evening. If, under the current zoning, 4 million square feet of office space was constructed, it is expected there would be 3,200 vehicles in and 800 out during the morning, and 430 vehicles in and 3,800 out during the evening.
Instead, the "Small B" design plan introduced on Jan. 11 by architect J. Robert Hillier and analyzed by David Listokin, the co-director of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, was evaluated from a traffic standpoint by DiSario. The small-scale housing complex combined with a train station, restaurants, a hotel, a community center and various other amenities could generate over 1,000 trips in due to the station, residential, office, retail and community components and would have over 800 vehicles leaving during the morning. At night, about 1,300 vehicles would return while over 1,400 would leave the site.
"When we fixed the bottlenecks, we not only fixed them for the existing traffic through the bottlenecks but we fixed them for the existing traffic and new traffic generated by the transit village," DiSario said of his all-inclusive analysis.
The expectation is that the train station and office would generate the most traffic, with residences contributing little vehicular motion. A transit village could be self-sustaining, having residents live, work and travel all within one site, allowing for an increased interaction between residents and the internal components of the village.
However, due to a resident's comment that his personal study of six commuter rail stations over the past 15 years concluded that Jersey Avenue is the least-used station and that 90 percent of riders in Edison, Metro Park and Princeton come from outside of the train's own community, DiSario said that other areas will be studied to get a fuller picture.
"When we begin to plan, we will look more closely at how people get there and where they come from," he said.
The next step is for the Township Council to make a referral to the Planning Board and for TOD Associates, the owner of the property, to present its plan before the Planning Board. The next series of meetings is expected to begin sometime in February. For updated information and meeting schedules, visit www.ourtowncenter.info.