Plans for Improvements to Brunswick Pike revealed in Lawrence Township

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Lea Kahn/Staff
Lawrence Township officials unveiled a concept plan for Brunswick Pike.

Aiming to breathe new life into a one-mile-long stretch of Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Township planning consultants unveiled a concept plan.

That plan, which was shared at a public meeting this month, calls for new sidewalks, benches and other improvements.

About a dozen residents of the Colonial Heights and Slackwood neighborhoods turned out for the March 11 meeting, held at the Slackwood Volunteer Fire Co. The two neighborhoods line Brunswick Pike, between Lake Drive and the Brunswick Circle.

“This concept plan has been a year in the making. The road is in place. What should we do to improve it,” Lawrence Township Councilman Christopher Bobbitt told the dozen or so attendees at the meeting.

Planners Michael Sullivan and Geoffrey Vaughn produced several ideas, based on the study conducted by the planning firm of Clarke Caton Hintz.

The two planners work for the firm, which was hired by Lawrence Township to conduct the study.

Sullivan described the concept plan as “aspirational.” The objective is to make Brunswick Pike more pedestrian friendly. Implementation of the concept plan will take time, as money – including grants – becomes available, he said.

Vaughn, the project manager, explained that the planners walked both sides of the Brunswick Pike corridor, looking for constraints – power lines and driveway entrances – and opportunities for improvements.

Brunswick Pike, between Lake Drive and the Brunswick Circle, consists of a four-foot-wide shoulder and two 11-foot-wide travel lanes on Brunswick Pike southbound. The northbound side of Brunswick Pike is similarly laid out, with two 11-foot-wide travel lanes.

Based on their study of the area, Sullivan and Vaughn suggested several design principles – increasing pedestrian safety, developing a sense of place through landscaping, and incorporating low-maintenance shade trees and plantings.

Vaughn suggested replacing the asphalt-stamped crosswalks, which are supposed to look like bricks, with white painted crosswalks. Studies have shown that white painted crosswalks are more effective in alerting drivers to pedestrians.

Pedestrian-activated flashing yellow lights at crosswalks also would help to signal drivers to the presence of pedestrians, Vaughn said.

Brunswick Pike is a hodgepodge of designs and cracked sidewalks, so to develop a sense of place, new sidewalks would help, he said. The grass areas between the sidewalks and the curbs could be filled in with cobblestone pavers to provide a more uniform look.

The median between the northbound and southbound lanes of Brunswick Pike is 12 feet wide. Ground cover plants could be planted in the median to replace the grass, Vaughn said. It would also reduce maintenance because there would not be any grass to mow.

Decorative street lights, benches and low-maintenance plantings also would help to create a sense of place, he said.

“Restaurant row” – the handful of restaurants between the Whitehead Road roundabout and Slack Avenue – could get new sidewalks and street trees, he said. Landscaping could hide the parking lots in front of Dominic’s Pizza, the Route 1 Diner and Leonardo II’s.

“We would do it (make improvements) in partnership with the property owners,” Sullivan said.

The Whitehead Road roundabout presented some design opportunities for the planners. They suggested that the mound of land on the west side of the roundabout could become a small “parklet.”

The roundabout itself is a large space that would be suitable for a sculptural element, possibly a wind turbine, Sullivan said. A wind turbine could generate electricity to power the street lights along Brunswick Pike, he said.

The wind turbines on the roundabout “says who we are in the future,” Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said.

When people enter Lawrence Township, they will see the wind turbines and “they will know who we are,” he said. The wind turbines are an example of sustainability.

Most of the attendees were interested and supportive of the concept plan.

One resident questioned whether the white-painted crosswalks. The stamped asphalt crosswalks would “get away” from the airport runway-look of white painted crosswalks.

Sullivan said they considered alternative pavement, but studies have shown that the painted crosswalks are safer. The painted crosswalks are easier to maintain than stamped asphalt crosswalks, he said.

When another resident asked about reducing the speed limit, Municipal Engineer Jim Parvesse said it would have to be approved by the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The state agency controls Brunswick Pike.

“(A speed reduction) would be based on a traffic study. The hope is that the improvements will slow down cars and then we can do a speed study to get it lowered,” Parvesse said.

Asked whether there is a design theme that runs through the Brunswick Pike concept plan, Sullivan said the planning consultants were told to take a traditional approach to the design with lighting, benches and landscaping.

Nerwinski explained that the goal is to give that stretch of Brunswick Pike a “friendly, Main Street feel. The area was identified as one that needed attention, and it has taken years to reach this point, he said.

“We want to make this a proud portion of our community. We want to give it a ‘Main Street’ theme. We hope people ‘buy in’ (to the concept),” Nerwinski said.