At its Monday, March 28 meeting, the Princeton Town Council discussed Phase 2 of the Witherspoon Street renovation project and honored former University professor and Assistant Dean of the College Dr. Cecelia Hodges Drewry.
Witherspoon Street continues to be one of the main points of conversation for the Council, with Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton and her team presenting concepts for Phase 2 of the construction plan, which stretches from Green Street to Franklin Avenue. Pre-construction utility work is already underway for Phase 1, which stretches from Nassau Street to Green Street, with construction set to begin in April 2022.
The engineering team, led in the meeting by Municipal Senior Planner Justin Lesko, presented two designs, Concept ‘A’ and Concept ‘B,’ for the Council to choose between before awarding a construction contract. Both concepts take community feedback into consideration and are meant to “address speeding and safety concerns for crossing Witherspoon Street,” according to Lesko, with an emphasis on more crosswalks.
The two designs differ in terms of biking accessibility: Concept ‘A’ does not include dedicated bicycle lanes while Concept ‘B’ does. While ‘B’ would satisfy the vocal biking community, the engineering team noted multiple problems with the proposed bike lanes. The presentation listed six pros and two cons for Concept ‘A’ and two pros and eight cons for Concept ‘B.’
The Council, including Councilmember David Cohen, voiced their support for Concept ‘A’ and worries about Concept ‘B.’
“My major concern is a safety concern with an enormous potential for conflict with cars that are going in and out of both driveways and the side streets, and a lot of conflict with pedestrians who would need to cross the bike lane to get to the many crosswalks,” Cohen said. “Bicyclists move quickly enough that they can sneak up on a motorist who's trying to back out of their driveway in a fraction of a second.”
Despite their initial support for the first concept, multiple Council members asked that the decision be delayed so that there could be more input from staff and affected groups. Councilmember Mia Sacks noted the lack of a public presence in the meeting. After discussion with the Engineering team, the Council determined that a decision on the design had to be made by the week of April 18.
The deadline to award a construction contract is Nov. 19, 2022, in order to meet the deadline for state municipal aid grants, so a design must be firmly set by then.
Earlier in the meeting, the Council honored Dr. Cecelia Hodges, a former English professor and assistant dean at the University, led by Councilmember Leighton Newlin.
“Dr. Cecelia B. Hodges has served the town of Princeton for many years as a professor, leader, performer and faithful steward of her church,” Newlin said. “Her legacy will continue as a valuable woman who gives up her time, her talents and her knowledge. I thank you for all you’ve done, Ms. Hodges. We the people in Princeton love you and we are very happy that you're a part of our family.”
Finally, the Council approved the University’s request to put a banner over Washington Road for the Department of Music.
The full meeting can be viewed here. The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held on Monday, April 11.
Charlie Roth is a Staff News Writer for the 'Prince,' focusing on local town coverage. He can be reached at email@example.com or @imcharlieroth on Twitter or Instagram.