The Mercer County Great Western Bikeway – a bicycle route along County Route 546 – is one step closer to being a reality – or at least 10 miles of it. On March 9, Mercer County held an online informational meeting to outline the history of the project, explain the current engineering plan, share future steps, and hear public comment.

The Great Western Bikeway will be a bicycle route along County Route 546 — variously known as Washington Crossing-Pennington Road, Pennington-Lawrenceville Road and Franklin Corner Road — and several of its approaches and seeks to maximize connectivity to the existing trail and bike network in the County. This transportation project aims to make it easier for people to navigate the western part of Mercer County on two wheels, according to the County. 

Future segment routes include a branch to Ewing Township via Scotch Road (CR 611), which will terminate at the Ewing Town Center, as well as a branch to downtown Pennington Borough via Main Street (CR 640) and East Delaware Avenue (CR 624). 

Funding for this project came about In 2019, when Mercer County received a $2,365,900 federal Regional Transportation Alternatives Program grant through the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) for design and construction of the project. 

This bikeway complements several other municipal and County bike/trail efforts underway and will serve as a spine for the northwestern part of the County. The Great Western Bikeway will ultimately establish 17.5 miles of bikeable shoulders, bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, two-way cycle tracks, and multi-use paths on Mercer County highways that are already relatively well-suited for bicycle travel. 

While the overall scope of the Great Western Bikeway (GWB) is slated to be more extensive, the County is currently advancing only Segment 1, which runs on Route 546 from Hopewell Township to Lawrence Township. This 10-mile-long east-west route will further expand the County’s promotion of complete streets and bike travel. It also will provide a direct link between two branches of the D&R Canal State Park Trail at: 1) Washington Crossing State Park to the west; and 2) Bakers Basin Road to the east and it will connect to additional regional trails, preserved open spaces, parks, and other destinations. Click here to see the map.

During the public comment session, several questions were posed regarding the safe crossing of Route 31 at the Ingleside Rd. juncture. County representatives explained that the alternative would be putting cyclists onto the Pennington Circle, an area known for traffic issues.

“We talked extensively about alternatives here and I’m not seeing one,” said Matthew Lawson, Mercer County transportation planner. “We’re sensitive, but speeding is a matter of enforcement – we would have a lot of difficulty widening Ingleside to put in a bike path or bike lanes… We’re trying to stay within the [legally prescribed] safety guidance of the complete streets design…” He clarified later in the meeting that bikes have the legal right to be on the road and “if we can change the psychology of the road for the drivers, we can change the speeds at which people drive.” 

The team also explained that at intersections at state highways, bicyclists will be asked to dismount and cross as pedestrians.

Another individual inquired why the Bikeway will not go the whole way west to the D&R Feeder Canal, ending at the entrance to Washington Crossing State Park instead. The explanation was that there is an historic stone wall and ferry house at that location and a bike lane would have required widening that intersection. Additionally, it too busy of an intersection for the termination of the Bikeway at Route 29. Access to the canal can be found through Washington Crossing State Park, said Lawson.

There will be additional public outreach to the municipalities throughout the process and prior to final design. The final design is expected to be presented and approved by next year and construction should begin in 2023.

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