38 Years Later, Still a Long Road for Route 206 Bypass

Project faces more delays as amount of traffic, commerce and population continue to rise.

Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part series on the history of the Route 206 Bypass, the challenges, setbacks and what lies ahead.

It only takes a minute to understand why officials have sought for so long to build a bypass around a section of Route 206.

In that minute, 43 vehicles would have passed through the Route 206 intersection at Amwell Road, an average of one vehicle every 7.2 seconds.

Those figures are based on a traffic count done Jan. 4 to 5 by the state Department of Transportation that determined 59,796 vehicles passed through that intersection in 24 hours.

That’s an average of 2,592 vehicles an hour in both directions; peak rush hours generally see more than 4,000 vehicles an hour.

An idea since 1974, the Route 206 bypass as currently planned deals with a 3.6-mile stretch of highway from Old Somerville Road to Mountain View Road.

The bypass was conceived as part of a plan to reduce traffic congestion related to the rapid regional growth of homes, offices and others businesses in the early 1970s. Those plans included, at one time, the extension of an Interstate 95 bypass through Hillsborough and Montgomery.

When it was first conceived, Hillsborough had a population of roughly 12,000, according to the U.S. Census. In 2010, the township had 38,303 residents, approximately three times as many. The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, in its Plan 2035, long-range planning document, estimates Hillsborough‘s population would be 50,970 in 2035.

The bypass will carry traffic around a section of the state highway from New Amwell Road at the north to Andria Avenue where the township plans to create a town center that favors predestrian traffic over vehicles and mixed-use development rather than the clot of shopping malls, driveway cuts and clogged  turning lanes that currently exist.

Township Business Advocate Greg Strupinsky said the goal is to create a downtown “like a Somerville.”

When the bypass is completed, the “downtown” section of Route 206 will no longer be a state highway and will become a township road, Strupinsky said.

One of the first projects for the new downtown section is Green Village, a mixed-use plan for 50 acres on Route 206 north.

The application, which was , calls for 469 apartments, 352 of which will be market rate and 117 units will meet the township’s affordable housing obligation, a clubhouse with recreational amenities, 20,000 square feet of retail space and a 130-room extended-stay executive suites hotel.

The $120 million bypass project was kicked off when ground was broken in August to start the first contract, state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Greeley said.

The $43 million contact, called “Contract A” is to build the center portion of the bypass between Amwell and Hillsborough roads, he said.

The portion of the project includes building several new bridges that will carry the new Route 206 bypass over Homestead Road, the CSX railroad tracks, Royce Brook and a tributary of Royce Brook, he said.

A new bridge is also being built on Amwell Road to carry motorists on the local roadway over the new bypass. The new Amwell Road bridge is expected to open this spring and traffic will be shifted onto the new structure.

This contract is also rebuilding the superstructures of two bridges that carry traffic over the CSX railroad tracks on Hillsborough and Homestead roads, Greeley said.

Hillsborough Road was opened to traffic on March 23. Hillsborough Road had been closed at this location since April 2010.

Homestead Road between Route 206 and Willow Road was .

The following detours are now in effect:

  • Route 206 motorists headed to Homestead Road will be directed to Amwell Road to Willow Road south to Homestead Road.
  • Homestead Road westbound motorists are directed to Willow Road north to Amwell Road to Route 206.

Greeley said the next portions of the bypass project, the northern and southern ends where the new roadway will connect to the existing Route 206, are being designed.

Key issues in those sections are creating entrances and exits to and from the bypass, and extensive work to relocate or work around large utilities such as underground telecommunications lines, gas transmission pipelines and the CSX rail line.

Utility work is expected to begin in the spring or summer of 2013 and last between 12 and 18 months, Greeley said.

“This is a large project with construction activities progressing at multiple locations within the work zone, simultaneously,” he said.

“From very early on, the construction of this bypass roadway has been planned to unfold over multiple years and multiple contracts. Final design of the remaining project elements is in process and we have identified funding around $10 million in the upcoming fiscal year 2013 Capital Program for the utility work.”

Once the utility work is done, the project would be ready to advance to the  final construction phase, he said.

The township council reported last month the as a result of delays with Contract B.

“We are certainly not pleased with the delay in the project timeline and need to ensure that DOT remains fully committed to funding and project completion," Deputy Mayor Gloria McCauley said in a prepared statement. "Having an incomplete Bypass serves no purpose."

McCauley, Committeeman Frank DelCore, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and freeholders Peter Palmer and Mark Caliguire met last month with members of the NJDOT, which assured the township it will secure funding for Contract B and hopes to have a 2017 completion date.

“While we all would’ve liked to have had this project completed sooner than later, we appreciate DOT’s recognition of the importance it has with respect to the economic development of Hillsborough,” Mayor Carl Suraci said in a prepared statement.

BDVideo April 03, 2012 at 05:51 AM
I think the bypass is flawed, but I wouldn't worry about the local businesses that are supported by us locals. After all, Somerville is bypassed by 202, 206 and 22. Princeton is bypassed by Rt. 1. The highways have all the big franchises, but the towns still thrive on smaller franchises and local businesses. If anything, the larger intersections at the bypasses might get some of the bigger franchises, then we won't have to drive to Rt. 22 or Rt. 1 as often.
BDVideo April 03, 2012 at 05:58 AM
I don't think you can just build a downtown. It has to have a history, like Somerville. That town has many homes within a few blocks of Main Street. How many homes does Hillsborough have that are a short walk to 206?
BDVideo April 03, 2012 at 06:04 AM
I would like to hear more discussion about the possibility of replacing the railroad bridge by Camplain Rd. to allow widening of 206 between Brooks Blvd. and the northern end of the bypass. It it even possible? The traffic there is terrible. The bypass might make it even worse.
Curt Carnes April 03, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Sorry, but I’m sure there is no diabolical secret, backroom, plan here. Remember folks you are dealing with a government that can’t even check to see if the property IT deemed as historic, is historic when it issues building permits. Do you think they’d have the ability to plan something this big?? You give them way too much credit! This is nothing more that total political incompetence, plain and simple! So we end up with a bypass from Hillsborough Rd., to Homestead. Oh Boy!!! This is really sad, and some people in this country think the government should take over health care. R U KIDDING ME??? BTW, has anyone seen the off set 5 point intersection they plan to build at Montianview? I think it should come with its own EMS/Fire station, with a MED-A-VAC helicopter, for all the accidents we’ll have there. Oh and check this out. If you are traveling north on 206 and want to make a left onto Mountainview, you’ll have to pass the Mountianview Intersection, go down to almost Hillsborough Rd ad make a U-turn, because there will be NO northbound left turns onto Mountain view because of the crazy 5 points off set intersection! Oh and speaking of business killing, that intersection will certainly kill the to two gas stations, Mountainview Plaza, and the Star Dinner! incompetency hardly begins to define how stupid this entire project is.
annoyingcat April 03, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Actually, if you think about, we do have a lot of residences close to the "town center". We live on Steinmetz Rd., easily within walking distance. Have suggested having sidewalks built on the south side of Amwell Rd., to make that trip safer, but they aren't in the budget.........thought we had a "sidewalk fund" that might help make that possible! :) Katie Vatter


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