Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ewing's General Motors Redevelopment Plan would transform area near Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN), New Jersey

EWING — As the idea of redeveloping the abandoned General Motors and Naval Air Warfare Center inches toward reality in Ewing, transportation planners last night presented traffic and safety analyses of Parkway Avenue and surrounding roads that would be impacted by the project.

Known as the Parkway Avenue Redevelopment Plan, it calls for transforming 130 acres of Ewing’s West Trenton section into a mixed-use development of 1,000 housing units, offices, shops, sidewalks, parks and a town square. Officials are also mulling the idea of moving the West Trenton Train Station closer to the site in the future.

The town center would connect to a corporate office park, medical offices, laboratories and a new airport terminal, which the county is considering for 1,300 acres surrounding the nearby Trenton-Mercer Airport.

Over the past year, county and township officials have been working to manage future traffic. Alternatives were developed in a planning study conducted for country roads near the development area. Concepts for road improvements came from the township’s redevelopment plan and a land use study of the airport by Mercer County.

John Federico, a transportation engineer with Urban Engineers Inc., presented a feasibility assessment of highway improvements and concepts for intersection and road improvements and new alignments to enhance the redevelopment area.

Federico took traffic counts at 11 intersections in town around the development area, he said. The intersection of Bear Tavern and Upper Ferry roads is the most congested now, especially during peak afternoon and evening hours, he said.

Federico also showed a five-year crash history of roads in the development area, looking at data between 2007 and 2011. The most vehicular crashes — 80 — occurred at Parkway Avenue and Scotch Road, followed by Parkway and Lower Ferry Road with 78.

To address traffic concerns, Federico detailed a series of alternatives, including an extension of Silvia Street that would connect Scotch Road with Sullivan Way, which would divert trips from the intersection of Scotch and Lower Ferry road.

“This would also improve vehicular and pedestrian access to the West Trenton station,” he said.

Another efficient option, Federico said, is adding a “road diet” or median left-turn lane on Parkway Avenue which would transform the road into three lanes.

“We’re trying to add possibilities and other ways people can go,” Mercer County Transportation Planner Matthew Lawson said.

Together, the developments could create jobs, tax-paying businesses and activity to Ewing. The GM plant, which closed in 1998, once employed nearly 7,000 people and delivered a hefty chunk of Ewing’s tax revenue, officials have said.

Though officials tout the project, there are still a number of issues to consider, including brownfield remediation required at the GM site, they said. The Federal Aviation Administration also must sign off on any planned aviation and non-aviation development on airport property owned by Mercer County.

Ewing resident and landlord Robert Byron said the fact that the plan does not call for widening Parkway Avenue to add a right-hand shoulder directly in front of the proposed site for motorists to turn into the development is a problem.

“That would turn Parkway Avenue into a nightmare, if there’s no additional shoulder. That’s where the headaches are,” Byron said. “You can’t even turn onto Parkway during lunchtime.”

Lawson said that concern was considered during planning, and noted traffic was assessed during nighttime rush-hour peak hours, not lunchtime, he noted.

“Because of the mixed-use development, it would spread trips over wider hours. It’s not putting everything in peak hour,” Lawson said. “The traffic impacts are not that significant.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Byron said his biggest concern with the project is the potential influx of families with children, which could result in overcrowding in the Ewing school district.