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Princeton town council discusses whether to pedestrianize Witherspoon Street

<h6>Charlie Roth/Daily Princetonian</h6>
Charlie Roth/Daily Princetonian

During its biweekly meeting on Oct. 11, the Princeton Council continued its ongoing discussion of construction plans for Witherspoon Street to increase space for pedestrians. 

Spurred by the desire to increase outdoor dining space during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council changed the portion of Witherspoon Street between Nassau Street and Paul Robeson Place from two-way to one-way. Currently, the Council is deciding whether to make the one-way street change permanent and add curb extensions to accommodate more pedestrians. 

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The majority of Council members support such a plan. 

Prior to the meeting, the Council invited city planner and author of “Walkable City” Jeff Speck to visit Princeton and review the current design plans for Witherspoon Street construction. He offered an alternative plan to fully pedestrianize that portion of Witherspoon Street and prevent any cars from passing through. The town’s engineering team believed this could be accomplished with the use of bollards, or vertical posts, which could be removed when garbage or delivery trucks need to enter the area.

However, multiple Council members spoke against turning the street into a purely pedestrian zone, expressing interest in keeping plans for a one-way street instead. No Council member expressed support for Speck’s suggestion during the meeting. 

Princeton residents, according to the Council, have voiced support for a variety of proposals, including Speck’s idea, the Council’s preferred plan, and reverting the area back to the way it was before the pandemic: a two-lane, two-direction, fully vehicular road. According to a study conducted by the Council, 82 percent of Princeton residents liked the change of Witherspoon Street to a one-way to allow for outdoor dining.

The current cost for the one-way street project is estimated to be $3 million and take about 48 weeks of construction. Speck’s fully pedestrian design would cost at least $500 thousand more and take about 64 weeks of construction. If approved, construction on either project would be expected to start in January 2022.

In addition to Witherspoon Street plans, the Council also introduced an ordinance to ban gas leaf blowers and adopt zero-emission landscaping equipment. This ordinance will be up for a public hearing at a future meeting.

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The Council’s final action of the meeting was approving the University’s request for a fireworks display on Oct. 23, which coincides with Homecoming.

The Council will next meet on Monday, Oct. 25.

Charlie Roth is a news contributor for the Prince. He can be reached at charlieroth@princeton.edu or @imcharlieroth on Twitter or Instagram. 

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