WEST WINDSOR: Proposed Conover Road bikeway project fails to get council approval


By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
WEST WINDSOR — The controversial Conover Road bikeway project is dead.
Faced with mounting opposition from residents who live along the proposed route of the bike path, Township Council on Monday night voted against seeking a second six-month extension of a state Department of Transportation grant that would have partially funded the estimated $425,000 project.
Township Council voted 2-3 to seek an extension of the $225,000 DOT grant, which meant the motion failed. The two “yes” votes were cast by council members Ayesha Hamilton and Alison Miller. Council members Hemant Marathe, Peter Mendonez and Council President Linda Geevers voted “no.”
The vote Monday night followed a public meeting on the bicycle and pedestrian path, held Aug. 10. Last week’s meeting became heated at times, as residents — many of whom live on Conover Road and in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, which includes Galston Drive — made it clear that they did not want the path.
Township officials explained last week that the 8-foot-wide asphalt path would be constructed along the south side of Conover Road, between South Post Road and Galston Drive. At that point, it would either continue along Conover Road to Edinburg Road, or turn right onto Galston Drive and use the street or sidewalk to reach Edinburg Road.
An alternative route would send the bikeway path along Conover Road to an existing 20-foot-wide sewer easement, near the beginning of the S-curve. It would bypass many properties on the S-curve, sparing owners from modifications along the frontage of their properties to accommodate the path, and link up with Conover Road about mid-way through the S-curve.
Monday night, Township Council was asked to vote on a resolution to seek a six-month extension of the DOT grant. The township received the $225,000 state grant in 2014, with the stipulation that if a construction contract had not been awarded by January 2016, it could ask for an extension.
Because a construction contract had not been awarded, the township received a six-month extension of the grant in December 2015, which expired last month. Township Council was set to vote on a second — and final — six-month extension Monday night.
Many of the residents who appeared at the Aug. 10 meeting also attended this week’s Township Council meeting, where they repeated their opposition to the proposed bikeway path. Galston Drive resident Donna Lucarelli said a survey of the 110 households in the Jefferson Park showed that a majority of the neighborhood opposes it.
But township resident Andrew Kulley said the bikeway path would improve safety for residents who want to walk or ride their bicycles on Conover Road to the township-owned athletic fields on the corner of Conover Road and South Post Road.
Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, who attended the meeting, encouraged Township Council to approve the resolution for an extension of the grant. Voting against it might jeopardize West Windsor Township’s relationship with the DOT and future grant applications, he said.
In casting her “yes” vote, Ms. Hamilton said she did not see any harm in seeking the extension. If the township’s engineering consultant can’t present a workable plan, the township would abandon the project, she said, adding that “we gave it our best shot.”
Mr. Marathe, who voted against asking for the six-month extension, said that “nothing in life is free” — referring to the state grant. “For a project that is ‘nice to have,’ this is too much (money),” he said, noting that he was concerned that the township might not be reimbursed from the state grant.
Acknowledging the lack of public support for the bikeway, Ms. Geevers — who voted “no” — said there are many unresolved issues. One resident objected to having the path built along the rear of his property because of concerns of possible trespassing, she said.
“The feedback we have been getting is not good. I think if West Windsor wants this project, we have to go back to the drawing board,” Ms. Geevers said, noting that “if the path was going to happen, it would have happened” and it would have been unnecessary to ask for grant extensions.