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Officials Celebrate New Walking Path

By Barbara A. Preston l July 13, 2021

Walkers and joggers have a new route to explore by Skillman Park. Officials celebrated the opening of a 2-mile asphalt trail—with a small section of experimental permeable concrete in front of St. Charles Borromeo church on Skillman Road—with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, July 9.

Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan cuts the ceremonial ribbon with Township Committeemember Kent Huang by her side. Photo by Brad Fay.

About a dozen dignitaries attended the ceremony, which followed a heavy rain storm that flooded a few parts of the pathway. Engineers from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, were happy to report that the permeable swath of the path worked, in that the rain water soaked through the pathway and did not puddle on the surface.

The new pathway is part of a larger network throughout the township—connecting walkers and cyclists to schools, neighborhoods, and parks, while encouraging physical fitness. The project also supports cutting-edge stormwater management science in a partnership with the Rutgers Center for Advance Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT).

“By working with Rutgers, we are helping to advance cutting-edge science in reducing stormwater runoff, which will help keep streams cleaner and reduce flooding,” said Mayor Keenan said.

The new pathway follows Skillman Road from Route 601 east to Burnt Hill Road, where it turns south toward the Main Boulevard entrance to Skillman Park. It provides pedestrian access between the high school and two elementary and two middle schools, while connecting to existing sidewalks that serve 150 households, and the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.

Montgomery Township Environmentalist Clem Fiori demonstrates the non-pervious asphalt section of the pathway. Photo by Barbara A. Preston

The stormwater management features are both innovative and experimental. Montgomery partnered with Rutgers CAIT, the NJ Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration on a pilot project to test several mixes of pervious concrete. Rutgers CAIT designed the mix of concrete with varying amounts of cement, water, and little to no sand. The concrete creates an open matrix of material that allows water to pass through, reducing puddling on the surface, and allowing stormwater to recharge into the aquifer below. Rutgers will monitor and test the pervious concrete over time for permeability, durability, and maintenance requirements and costs.

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Pervious concrete is a promising solution for eliminating storm water runoff, directly replenishing ground water, and protecting creeks and streams from high flow runoffs, according to Husam Najm, PhD, a project manager from Rutgers CAIT. “A successful implementation of this project in the field will help in the construction of more use of these drainage systems in the state, and in other applications such as driveways and parking lots,” he said in a prepared statement.

“The main objective of the project is to develop pervious mixes that have higher strength and good infiltration rates, implement these mixes in a sidewalk, study construction practices, maintenance methods, and monitor sidewalk performance over time.”

For projects like the Skillman Pathway projects, the Rutgers team expects runoff to be zero. When used in parking lots, reduction in run-offs can vary from 75 to 95 percent, depending on the volume of water produced by a storm.

Pervious concrete (left) verses regular asphalt on the new Skillman pathway.

“This remarkable project is a result of having forward-thinking citizens involved in our government and planning for many years,” said Mayo Keenan. “The idea has origins with the Open Space Committee, who worked with planners to create a pathways plan over 30 years ago, that includes these newest linkages. Today, we are able to use grant funds to realize this key connection of this long-standing plan.”

Open Space Coordinator Lauren Wasilauski, who attended the event, added: “It’s even more special because it connects our schools and provides beautiful views of farms, parks, and the Sourland Mountain in the distance.”

“This project is very much in the spirit of ‘complete streets’ that serve not just automobiles but also pedestrians and bicyclists,” Wasilauski said.
Dignitaries who attended the ceremony—in random order—included Rutgers Professor Husam Najm; NJDOT Project Manger Priscilla Ukpah; Menlo Engineering VP Ken Grisewood; Open Space Chairman Clem Fiori; Recreation Director Karen Zimmerman; Planning Director Lori Savron; Asst. Township Engineer Mark Herrmann, Open Space Lead Lauren Wasilauski, Menlo Engineer Valeria Hillen; Township Engineer Gail Smith, and Twp Administrator Donato Nieman

Specific features of the project include:

  • Pedestrian enhancements at Route 601 intersection to add pedestrian push-button.

  • A pedestrian bridge over a sensitive wetland area.

  • Crosswalks and curb ramp upgrades at Skillman Road intersections with Wessex, Highfield, and Titus streets, to comply with ADA requirements.

  • A crosswalk at Burnt Hill Road for a future connection to the schools.

  • Milling and re-paving of Skillman Road, with the speed limit lowered from 40 to 35 mph and new safety signage to accommodate the shared use of the roadway with bicyclists.

The pathway is already in use. Skillman resident Sumedha Rao says she regularly walks the new pathway, which she finds "peaceful and relaxing."

The project has been in the works for a long time, the mayor said. The township secured property easements from the state of New Jersey in 2004, before the state had auctioned off adjacent preserved farmland. A significant part of the project was paid for with a $360,000 grant through the 2020 NJ Department of Transportation Municipal Aid program. Another $440,000 came from Montgomery’s dedicated Open Space Tax.


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