West Windsor residents have been attending board meetings to warn against the traffic congestion on Route 571, that can result due to a proposed housing development near Southfield Road. But most people are not paying attention to the traffic impact on Route 571 due to developments around Rite-Aid (the old Sun Bank area).
The approval by the Zoning Board in granting of a variance for a large capacity day care center as part of the re-development of the area previously occupied by Sun Bank and some adjoining small businesses is an alarming development for the neighborhood residents.
The built up area of this new project is about 23,000 sq. ft., out of which 13,000 sq. ft. is earmarked for the proposed day care.
The day care of that size will enroll at least 150 children, if not more. A day care is primarily used by working parents who drop their kids around 8 am (anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30 am) every morning. As residents and commuters are undoubtedly aware, this is the peak of the rush hour on Princeton Hightstown Road (Rt. 571) with long waits even before reaching the traffic light at Clarksville Road, and then on to Alexander Road and Wallace Road junctions.
Unfortunately, for the residents of West Windsor, Princeton-Hightstown Road has now become a major east-west thoroughfare for the commuters from our adjoining towns as far away as Monroe and Robbinsville, which have seen tremendous growth in housing development lately.
So the traffic on this road has increased tremendously over the period that I have lived here for about 10 years. It is only worsening as new population growth happens in neighboring towns over which we have no control. But West Windsor has the ability to control traffic growth on this particular road due to factors that the town has oversight over.
Allowing a new facility that will potentially add up to 150 cars during rush hour, will add to the traffic woes of commuters, like myself, who use this road to get to the train station or travel to the Route 1 corridor.
In the proposed site plan, there are not enough parking spots on the proposed site to accommodate a large number of parents arriving either all at once or even in large batches.
Parents have to go into the parking area, get out and go into the building to drop their kids, get back into their cars and then turn around and leave the premises while others try to pull in. This will result in lines of cars forming on Princeton-Hightstown Road trying to get into and out of the premises.
Route 571 is a single-lane thoroughfare, so having an extra row of cars lining up to get in and then out of the day are will only make matters worse for traffic congestion.
This will be further negatively impacted because it is a few hundred yards from the next traffic light (the intersection with Wallace and Cranbury roads). There will also be cars coming from the other direction trying to turn left to get into the day care center, potentially, causing traffic to block behind these cars.
With new shops and housing coming up in Ellsworth Center, this junction will be a major bottleneck when you add the traffic from the daycare right at that junction, right in the middle of the morning peak rush hour.
The net result of this increased congestion around this area is that the commuters will try to avoid this traffic jam by using the neighborhood roads behind this building, i.e. there will potentially be a large increase of traffic during the rush hours through neighborhoods like Norchester Drive, Sherbrooke Dive, Sunnydale Way and Cranbury Road.
Readers may recall what happened in this neighborhood when the Cranbury Road bridge was closed for construction last year.
Police had to monitor the increase in traffic at Sarah Drive and Suffolk Lane to keep the children waiting for school buses safe and watch the speeding commuters going through these developments.
Luckily, that was a temporary onslaught of traffic which dissipated once the bridge re-opened and this only had Plainsboro traffic coming through West Windsor. Now imagine a permanent drive through traffic coming off Princeton-Hightstown Road through our residential neighborhoods. Once this project is approved, this neighborhood will suffer the traffic onslaught for ever.
For those reasons I urge the mayor and the council to look into the negative impacts of these new developments, before changing the character of West Windsor and the quality of life of its residents, for ever.