What should a redesigned Witherspoon Street look like? That’s what Princeton officials want to know, and that’s why they are holding a virtual public meeting Sept. 15.
The 7 p.m. meeting, which will be held as a Zoom webinar, is a followup to an earlier meeting held on Feb. 13. The initial meeting was intended to kick off a series of public planning and visioning events for the Witherspoon Street corridor, between Nassau Street and Valley Road.
The focus of the Sept. 15 meeting is on potential improvements on Witherspoon Street, between Nassau Street and Green Street. Princeton received a $610,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation to make improvements to that segment of Witherspoon Street, Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton said.
“Due to in-person meeting restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to put the process temporarily on hold. We are jump-starting the process now because of the deadlines associated with the grant,” Stockton said.
T&M Associates has been hired to complete the master planning process for the Nassau Street to Green Street segment of Witherspoon Street, and expects to develop construction plans for bidding and construction in late 2021.
But in the meantime, Princeton officials want to know from residents what they think Witherspoon Street should look like. The Sept. 15 meeting will include discussion on community feedback from the Feb. 13 meeting. Most of the suggestions offered were geared toward making the street more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.
Also on the agenda and up for discussion are roadway alternative concepts – turning Witherspoon Street into a one-way street northbound toward Green Street, as officials have done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to accommodate outdoor dining.
There would be one lane for loading and parking, and one lane for traffic. Alternatively, Witherspoon Street could become a one-way street northbound, but with two lanes for loading and parking. There would still be one lane for cars traveling northbound toward Green Street.
In both instances, the flow of traffic on South Tulane Street, between Nassau Street and Spring Street, would be reversed to become a one-way street southbound, toward Nassau Street. It is presently a one-way street northbound.
Or, Witherspoon Street could be closed entirely to cars, between Nassau Street and Spring Street.
Another possibility is to restore Witherspoon Street to its pre-COVID-19 status, as a two-way street with either one lane for parking and loading, or two lanes for parking.
Also on the agenda is a discussion about bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and parking and traffic. The agenda includes green infrastructure, tree replacement and the possibility of public art.
Street lighting and other street amenities – benches, landscaping, bicycle racks and bicycle corrals – will be on the agenda for discussion.
Going forward, a third public meeting will be held in October and then the Historic Preservation Committee will weigh in on the project in November.
Based on the discussions and public comment, the preliminary plan will be prepared between November and February.
The final plan is expected to be ready by March, and then it will be put out for bids. Once a bid is awarded and a contractor is hired, work will start in June 2021.
Improvements to the rest of Witherspoon Street, from Green Street to Valley Road, will be made over the next few years as money becomes available. Green Street to Birch Avenue is the heart of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood.