With a $674,000 “Safe Routes to School” grant in hand, Princeton officials are poised to make improvements to two key intersections on N. Harrison Street that will make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the street.
The traffic lights at N. Harrison Street and Hamilton Avenue, and N. Harrison Street and Franklin Avenue, will be replaced with new ones that allow pedestrians and bicyclists to push a button to change the light so they can cross the street.
Other improvements include accessible ramps and automatic traffic light changes for emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks and ambulances.
The two intersections are used by school children to reach the Princeton Charter School, Princeton High School and the John Witherspoon Middle School.
The project had its genesis in 2014, when Princeton Charter School parents reached out to town officials about how to get the children to school safely, said Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton.
There are crossing guards at the two N. Harrison Street intersections in the morning and afternoon, but the timing does not mesh with the start and end of the school day for the Princeton Charter School and the Princeton Public Schools, Stockton said.
When town officials learned of the grant opportunity from the New Jersey Department of Transportation to replace the 40-year-old traffic lights, they jumped on it and was successful in obtaining the grant.
The project is estimated to cost about $800,000, so town officials would pay for the difference between the grant amount and the final cost of the project. It is anticipated that work will begin in the spring.
Mayor Liz Lempert and Beth Behrend, the president of the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education, praised the project.
“Princeton is fortunate to have a culture where many of our students walk or bike to school,” Lempert said.
Surveys have shown that more children would walk or ride their bicycle to school if they felt safe, so that’s why the Safe Routes to School project is so important, Lempert said.
Behrend said the intersection of N. Harrison Street and Franklin Avenue has been a “school traffic bottleneck” for many years. School district officials are grateful for the grant, she said.
“We look forward to seeing more children enjoying the benefits of biking and walking, as well as fewer idling vehicles,” Behrend said.
Donna Bradin, the school district’s transportation supervisor, said about half of the Princeton Public Schools’ nearly 4,000 students walk or ride their bicycles to school.
Anything that can make it safer or easier for the students is a priority for the Princeton Public Schools, Bradin said.