The first phase of underground work for upgrades to the traffic signals on N. Harrison Street, aimed at making it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, has been completed, Princeton officials said.
Mounds of dirt, asphalt patches and safety cones mark the areas where the work has been completed on the underground construction at the intersection of N. Harrison Street at Hamilton Avenue, and N. Harrison Street at Franklin Avenue.
JC Contracting Inc., which was awarded a contract for the project by the Princeton Council, will return to the job site in a couple of months when the signal equipment has been delivered. The contractor will install the new equipment and complete the road and sidewalk repairs.
The Princeton Council awarded a $740,340 contract to JC Contracting, Inc., which is based in Rahway, at its Dec. 16, 2019 meeting. Bids for the project ranged from JC Contracting’s low bid of $740,340 to a high bid of $923,013 submitted by Earle Asphalt Co.
The municipal engineer’s estimate for the job was $794,130.
The Municipality of Princeton was awarded a $674,071 Safe Routes to School grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation last year to make improvements to the two key intersections on N. Harrison Street. The goal is to make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the street.
Town officials will make up the difference between the grant amount and the contract amount. The town has money available in its capital accounts to cover the gap between the grant and the contract.
The traffic signals at N. Harrison Street at Hamilton Avenue, and N. Harrison Street at Franklin Avenue, will be replaced with new traffic signals that allow pedestrians and bicyclists to push a button to change the traffic signal so they can cross the street.
Other improvements include handicap accessible ramps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an audible alert and countdown heads, and automatic traffic signal changes for emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and fire trucks.
Also, a new layer of asphalt will be laid in the intersections, and regulatory warning and pedestrian signs will be installed. The intersections will be re-striped to include “stop” bars for vehicles, and crosswalks for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The two intersections are used by school children to reach the Princeton Charter School on Ewing Street, and Princeton High School on Moore Street and the John Witherspoon Middle School on Walnut Lane.
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.
There are crossing guards at the two N. Harrison Street intersections in the morning and in the afternoon, but the time does not mesh with the start and end of the school day for the Princeton Charter School and the Princeton Public Schools, officials said.
When town officials learned of the grant opportunity from DOT to replace the 40-year-old traffic signals, they jumped on it and succeeded in winning the grant.
“Princeton is fortunate to have a culture where many of our students walk or ride a bicycle to school,” Mayor Liz Lempert said.
Surveys have shown that more children would walk or ride a bicycle to school if they felt safe, so that’s why the Safe Routes to School project is so important, Lempert said.
School Board President Beth Behrend said the intersection at N. Harrison Street and Franklin Avenue has been a school traffic bottleneck for years. School district officials are grateful for the grant, she said.