After years of requests by Princeton officials to evaluate the timing of traffic signals to improve pedestrian safety, the state Department of Transportation is trying a traffic signal modification at key intersection on Nassau Street that would stop traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
The pilot project, which will run from June 10 to June 21, is called a pedestrian-only phase and will be tried out at the intersection of Nassau Street, Vandeventer Avenue and Washington Road.
The pedestrian-only phase would stop traffic in all four directions – on Nassau Street, Vandeventer Avenue and Washington Road – to allow pedestrians to cross the street in any direction, including on the diagonal. Right turn on red movements would be banned, as they are now.
To activate the pedestrian-only phase, a pedestrian would have to press a button on the existing traffic signal pole and then wait for the white “walk” icon to flash. Pedestrians would have 39 seconds to cross the intersection.
The downside is that it will create longer wait times for cars while pedestrians are crossing the street, and long wait times for pedestrians when cars have the right of way, according to the state Department of Transportation.
“Nassau Street is officially a state highway (Route 27), but it is also the center of our walkable community. It is vitally important for it to be an attractive and safe place to walk,” Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert said.
Town officials have been pushing for safer intersections for years, Mayor Lempert said. A pedestrian was killed in October 2017 as she crossed Washington Road at Nassau Street in the crosswalk. She was struck by a cement truck as it was turning left from Nassau Street onto Washington Road.
“We are glad that the state Department of Transportation is finally conducting this study and recognizing that pedestrians – not just cars and trucks – as important users of the road,” Mayor Lempert explained.
This is not the first time that the state Department of Transportation has modified the traffic signal at that intersection.
In 2016, at the town’s request, it modified the traffic signal timing – due to the offset of Washington Road and Vandeventer Avenue – so that both approaches would not have the green light at the same time.
This means cars on Washington Road have the green light and cars on Vandeventer Avenue have the red light. Then, cars on Vandeventer Avenue have the green light and cars on Washington Road have the red light.