FLEMINGTON, NJ – Residents got their first look at the state’s plan to improve the Flemington traffic circle when engineers from McCormick Taylor unveiled it yesterday at Borough Hall.

Engineers Kevin Boulden and Ken Burhardt said the project – which is expected to take a bit more than two years to complete at a cost of about $11.1 million – was designed to improve safety, rather than completely redesign the complex intersections of Route 31, Route 202, Route 12 and Route 202-31.

No one at the forum denied the need for improvements to the circle. Information provided by the state Department of Transportation described it as an “important need” because of  “the extremely high number of crashes” for which the circle is known.

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Burkhardt said that although the finished project will still be considered a circle and not a roundabout – such as the borough’s two other nearby rotary intersections – the design incorporates some of the features of a roundabout. For example, some of the access points will direct cars into a sharp-radius turns, forcing them to slow down before entering the circle.

The construction will include adding two bypass lanes along Route 202 so that those driving north on the highway will not enter the circle. Northbound traffic destined for Route 31 or Route 12 will be directed into the circle. For Route 31 south traffic, there will be a bypass lane so that those going towards Route 12 can avoid the circle itself.

Unlike the present traffic pattern, all vehicles that enter the circle will be required to yield to traffic already in the circle, with the exception of Route 202 south, where those drivers will have the right-of-way upon entering the circle.

The engineers acknowledged that the bypass lanes for Route 202 north may increase the speed of traffic in front of the congested business entrances there, including Dunkin’ Donuts and STS Auto Center. But Burhardt said the traffic, “Will be safer than it is now.”

“Overall, the Department of Transportation works very well with us,” said Flemington Mayor Phil Greiner. He noted that the project limits some business access and said, “It’s a trade-off” that probably needs to be made in the interest of safety.

Greiner also hopes the DOT will also be helpful as the borough executes its “streetscape” plan, which includes improvements along Main Street to sidewalks and curbing, safety upgrades at some intersection as well as bike racks and lighting improvements. The borough has been awarded a $1 million grant from the North Jersey Transportation Authority to help pay for that project.

County Planning Director Sue Dziamara said she would have preferred that the circle project be more consistent with the state’s “complete streets” policy, where bicycle and pedestrian use is integral to a plan. The current plan for the improved circle includes sidewalks, but pedestrian access is limited.

Work on the project is actually underway and the contractor has worked to stake out utilities in the area, Boulden said. The circle will remain open during the project, although traffic will soemtimes be limited to two lanes. When it will be necessary to have single-lane traffic, the contractors will work to limit that to between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., he said.