Cranbury Road has been an important way of getting from one part of West Windsor and the Princeton Junction area to another for many years.
If you go back to my early times here—say to the late 1950’s—you will see that it was mainly used as a way to get your tractor from one part of your farm to another. Most of it wasn’t paved, just dirt leveled with farm machines.
It started at the intersection with what was called Hightstown Road—Route 571 today—and went all the way to Cranbury village, several miles away. On the way it passed through a large portion of Plainsboro, as well as Cranbury Township, where it used the name Cranbury Neck Road. It still does, but in West Windsor it’s just Cranbury Road. On the way, it passes over both Big Bear Brook and the Millstone River.
In 1986, Mercer County built a new bridge where the road passes over Big Bear Brook. At about that time, the township had portions of the new municipal water and sewer systems installed.
The improvements to the bridge then were very much welcomed by local residents, since residential development of the Rabbit Hill Road and Southfield Road areas had begun to take place. Cranbury Road gave a direct route to the Princeton Junction railroad station for those areas.
But recently, the age of the bridge and other factors have combined to indicate that improvements in the portion of the road between Grovers Mill and the old bridge are needed. These factors include an increase in traffic to the railroad station from both Grovers Mill and Plainsboro via Millstone Road.
Among the changes proposed by the county are a replacement of the bridge and installation of traffic signals at two intersections: Cranbury and Millstone roads as well as Cranbury and Clarksville roads.
Replacement of a bridge that is only 30 years old seems extreme, but apparently there are reasons that go beyond the replacement of the structure.
Some of the recent traffic diversions on Cranbury Road in the Grovers Mill area and the frequent presence of PSE&G vehicles in the bridge area indicate that work is needed on the power and gas lines as well.
There is also excavation that would suggest that the sewer line needs changes or repair. At least, if the bridge is rebuilt, any sewer or water lines that are supported by the old bridge must be supported by the new one.
Portions of West Windsor are supplied with water from the Elizabethtown Water Company, which also supplies water to several other area municipalities. However, there are still a number of individual wells in the township, some of which require electric pumps.
Because it was once more convenient for my own house, I have both sources of water. Many years ago, before the Elizabethtown Water Company came on the scene and put their mains in the street, everyone who owned a house had their own well for drinking and washing water supply.
If you were tapped into an underground water source that had sufficient natural pressure to make the water flow into your house pipes, you were lucky. Otherwise, you had to use an electric pump to lift the water out of the well and put it in a pressurized storage tank, which was either in the basement or an outdoor, heated shed.
That is what I had to do, and that part of my system is still here—and still works. But I only use the water it supplies for watering the garden. An added complication is that in the winter, the pipes that are connected to the electric pump are in a small shed next to the house. They can freeze and thus require an electric heating element when the weather gets really cold.
I am envious of many area residents who have lived here for only a few decades, and thus have not had to experience the “growing pains” of the municipal water and sewer systems that I have.
It will be very interesting to watch as the bridge reconstruction on Cranbury Road proceeds. They say it may take nine months, but not when it will start. Work on Cranbury Road near the bridge has been going on for some time already, and nobody has said if that time includes any of that for the bridge replacement.
Nearly three years ago, I wrote about the area that includes the bridge that needs replacing. In that story, I described the original bridge that was at that location when we moved here in 1957.
In addition to being very primitive, it had side railings made of ordinary pipe. Every so often, someone would unscrew a joint in the side rail and swing the rail across the roadway. If you were the next to arrive at the bridge, you had to stop and swing the rail back to the side and out of your way. I expect that the new bridge will not require any hand adjustments of that type.