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Keep Montgomery and Rocky Hill Moving — Safely

By Lynn S. Robbins | Posted April 13, 2023


Folks may own jet packs by the time a safe solution is found for pedestrians to safely cross routes 206 and 518 in Montgomery and Rocky Hill. Being that these thoroughfares are owned by the state of New Jersey and by Somerset County, local municipal governments have their work cut out for them in order to navigate the bureaucracies. In the meanwhile, pedestrians and bicyclists are risking their lives to navigate their way to local shops and the library.

A homeowner’s remedy to slow down cars on Sycamore Lane. Many drivers use the lane as a cut-through from Route 206 to Route 518, taking cars and trucks through residential neighborhoods in Skillman and Rocky Hill.


A recent hit-and-run accident in which a 20-year-old Skillman woman was hospitalized with serious injuries while attempting to cross Route 206 at 7:50 pm in March has brought an urgency to the issue. The local solution is to warn folks, reminding them that “Route 206 is a state highway and very dangerous to cross and walk along in the shoulder.” “If you need to cross Route 206, only do so at intersections with clearly marked crosswalks that are controlled by traffic lights. Avoid walking in the roadway or shoulder.” Montgomery is also warning drivers that “pedestrians in crosswalks have the right of way - you must stop. Be on the lookout for pedestrians at all times, especially after school and on weekends.”


The Keep Somerset County Moving Project

Titled “Keep Somerset Moving: Transportation Plan 2045,” the project is funded by a grant from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA). The purpose of the plan is to improve mobility and travel throughout Somerset County in the next 20 years by providing a process for identifying and selecting priority transportation improvements.


Montgomery and Rocky Hill residents and officials, however, were perplexed about information from a slide show shown at a February meeting and published on the Somerset County website. Despite Montgomery and Rocky Hill residents’ participation in the pre-meeting survey, these towns were not included in a presentation that listed municipalities with priority needs. One of the presentation slides incudes demographics that determine whether a town is considered underrepresented. Some of the factors include the prevalence of minority groups, low-income households, people with disabilities, and people with no vehicles.


Somerset County identified the following towns as very high priority for traffic/pedestrian projects: Bound Brook, Bridgewater, Franklin, Manville, North Plainfield, Hillsborough, Raritan, Somerville, and South Bound Brook. Another slide indicated that 70 percent of crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians occur in these towns. Based on this analysis, the towns identified with high transportation improvement needs are north of Montgomery Township and Rocky Hill.


In a phone conversation with The Montgomery News, project leader Walter C. Lane, who is the director of the Somerset County Office of Planning, Policy and Economic Development, discussed the presentation. He explained it was based on an equity assessment of Somerset County, in which NJTPA identified underrepresented populations in need of safety and mobility. Lane said equity assessments help the county comply with federal requirements.


However, these results do not negate the needs of other towns. Montgomery Township Mayor Devra Keenan recently spoke with Somerset County Administrator Coleen Mahr and was assured that Montgomery’s issues are being included in the process of identifying transportation needs within the county. Summarizing her meeting with Mahr, Mayor Keenan said the county and municipalities will work together to ensure that Montgomery and Rocky Hill voices are recognized. The municipalities will send an updated list of their transportation needs to the county, and the county will provide more opportunities for public participation.


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Currently, Somerset’s interactive transportation map includes several comments from Montgomery and Rocky Hill: Traffic on Routes 206 and 518 is heavy, and cars and trucks move too fast. In some areas, there are no shoulders on the roads. All this causes safety issues for drivers and pedestrians, and affects quality of life. Suggestions for improvement include highway bypasses, roundabouts for traffic flow, speed bumps, bike lanes and pedestrian paths, more sidewalks, local bus stops, and an increase in time between traffic lights changing from green to red. A Rocky Hill resident asked for more bridges because the only one in town is often flooded.


Key Findings from the online survey for all areas of Somerset County covered modes of transportation. Driving is the method most survey takers use. Walking was reported as a daily activity for one quarter of the participants, and walking a few times per week for another quarter. Bicycling daily or a few times a week was reported by ten percent of the participants. Both the interactive map and online survey show similar results with participants requesting improvements in safety and convenience.


Based on input from meeting participants overall, common themes have emerged. Residents want speed, aggressive driving, and congestion reduced. They want more and better public transportation. They want a walkable and bikeable friendly environment with greater safety and connectivity, and use of green infrastructure.


What’s Next

The Somerset County project team has committed to complete the plan within the following time frame: Draft the findings and recommendations to date by this spring. Publish Public Survey Two in May or June. Hold a second public meeting this summer. Produce the final plan and deliverables by this fall.


Residents are encouraged to participate in the project: Make suggestions, ask questions, and be added to the notification list: Email KeepSomersetMoving@co.somerset.nj.us. Call: 908.231.7021.


Get involved

Visit the “Keep Somerset Moving” website, somersetcounty.mysocialpinpoint.com. Here, you can participate in the second survey this spring and attend the second public meeting this summer. You can also view a video of the first public meeting, a slide show, and a Q&A sheet from the event.

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