Monday, January 24, 2011

US 1 under the Parkway - A highway for bike/ped traffic too

There's another!

I don't know why I was really all that surprised.  I've said before (to myself) that I see pedestrians and cyclists passing under the Garden State Parkway along northbound US 1 in Edison all the time.  But last night (Sunday, Jan. 23rd) the weather was so brutally cold.  And the conditions behind that guardrail under the Parkway must have been incredibly treacherous from the plowed snow and ice over the past couple of weeks.  Yet despite all the obstacles put before them, these intrepid men and women still push through what has got the be the most undesirable but critical bike and pedestrian corridor I know of anywhere in Central Jersey.  If your on foot or on a bicycle your choices in this area are far and few.

I pass through this area once or twice a week on my way up to Union County via Rt 1 and the Parkway.  I can honestly say that I see a pedestrian or a bicyclist pushing their way through this choke point on US 1 roughly 1 out of every 6 times I pass by, day or night.  That's really amazing when you think that it takes me about 20 seconds to drive through this point in a car at highway speed.  If my rough observations are correct then that means as many as 30 pedestrians and bicyclists (combined) are passing though this dangerous corridor every hour!

Pedestrians and cyclists passing through this corridor are so common that one was captured on Google Streetsview as I suspected they might.
View Larger Map

So why are so many so many people using this otherwise treacherous corridor? 
Well the simple reason is that they really don't have any other choice.  The two closest alternatives to crossing the Garden State Parkway require traveling more than three times the distance and provide little relief from high-speed motorized traffic hazards.  In fact those alternatives are probably even more dangerous.

This map shows the desired route of bicyclists and pedestrians in the area (red line) along with current alternative routes (blue and green line) and potential future crossing (thick black lines).
View US 1 and Parkway in a larger map

So what could be done to remedy this problem?  Its really a hard problem to solve.  The cheapest and easiest would be to try and provide some sort of formalized facility on the route that people are currently using along US 1 under the Parkway.  However there is little room behind the barrier and between the bridge foundation and there are two dangerous highway ramps that pedestrians would have to cross.  These issues probably eliminate this option but one can't say for sure.

To the north a crossing at Alvin Ct to Ronson Rd is possible and would likely be the cheapest NEW infrastructure solution.  This route would likely not require the acquisition of residential properties.  However it is hidden in a residential neighborhood and would likely face opposition from local residents.  It would also be hidden from view from those currently using Rt 1.  Also to the north is a rail ROW but that is still active and not an option.

Immediately to the south, running a pathway along Hyacinth Rd and around the highway ramps and along Rt 1 has its advantages because it is directly adjacent to where people are currently traveling so they would see it and would be more likely to use it.  It is also likely that this proposal would result in less community opposition due to its location.  However the infrastructure costs of this solution would be higher since it would require the realignment of a highway ramp and probably the purchase of some non-residential properties.

Either way, there really doesn't seem to be an obvious best solution for this problem.  Being left with nothing but a bunch of bad choices is the result of decades of building a transportation network solely around one mode, namely the automobile.  Any potential to find a good solution has literally been squeezed out of a landscape that has left no room for anything else but automobiles!  Take a closer look at the map if you don't believe me.


ree.cyclist said...

Since there isn't room between the road and the bridge (to say nothing of it being an unpleasant experience, being just inches from high-speed traffic), why not place a pedestrian walkway further back into the grassy area: a long elevated walkway(s) above the off- and on- ramps, and then bore a passage through the Parkway embankment?

Bob E.

john c said...

On a much smaller scale, this post reminds me of a bad RR crossing on Inman Ave in Edison. It has been so narrowed to prevent dumb maneuvers by car drivers that there is no room for pedestrians and bikes. The engineers who designed it were thinking only of cars. Other users were ignored.