Nearly a dozen residents who live along Cherry Valley Road turned out for a neighborhood meeting organized by Princeton and Montgomery Township officials to update them on the Cherry Valley Road reconstruction project Wednesday.
Princeton and Montgomery officials walked the residents through the project, which is expected to get under way later this year. Properties on the north side of Cherry Valley Road are in Montgomery Township, and those on the south side are in Princeton.
A half-mile stretch of Cherry Valley Road, between Jefferson's Curve and an area about 300 feet west of Cherry Hill Road, will be widened from 20 feet to 34 feet.
The plan calls for two 12-foot-wide lanes, plus a 5-foot-wide bicycle lane on both sides of the road. Ditches on both sides of the road will be filled in and replaced with underground drainage pipes.
An asphalt pedestrian path will be installed on the Princeton side of the road, which will be an extension of an existing asphalt path to the east.
Officials also told residents Wednesday that about 150 trees will be cut down to make room for the wider road. The tree work is expected to begin in March and to be completed by the end of the month.
The majority of trees to be removed have trunks between 6 inches and 24 inches in diameter. There are nine trees that have diameters of 30 inches to 45 inches, and eight trees whose trunk is more than 45 inches.
Noting that some of the trees are 100 to 125 feet tall, Princeton Municipal Arborist Lorraine Konopka acknowledged that removing the trees will have a "major" impact on the tree canopy.
"It sounds terrible, but a lot of the trees need to come down for safety," Konopka said. Some of those trees are dead. All of the trees that are being removed are within the public right-of-way.
When several residents questioned why Cherry Valley Road - which one Montgomery Township resident described as "a sweet little tree-lined road" - has to be widened, officials said it would make the road safer. During bad weather, cars have to be pulled from the ditches.
Residents also said they were concerned that a wide road would lead to speeding.
Pointing out that drivers "fly down the road," one Montgomery Township resident asked if speed humps or other traffic-calming measures could be installed. But Princeton Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton said current regulations would not permit them.
Stockton suggested that striping the two lanes so they are 11 feet wide might help to slow down motorists because narrow lanes would give the road a "constrained feel."
Princeton Police Sgt. Thomas Murray said motorists speed on Cherry Valley Road, but there are strategies to encourage them to slow down, such as bicycle lanes and pedestrian paths. A double yellow line pained down the middle of the road might help, he said.
Sgt. Murray said the Princeton and Montgomery police departments would like to set up radar to enforce the speed limit, but Cherry Valley Road is too narrow.
"To be quite honest, the biggest challenge both police departments face is, even with radar, there is no place to set it up," Sgt. Murray said. "With a wider road, our ability to do radar enforcement will improve."
"We think we have a good handle on this. We will put a cap on speeding. I personally think this will benefit you in many ways," Sgt. Murray said of the road widening project.