Published On: Thu, Jun 30th, 2016

The Pedestrian Isolation of Connaught Hill in Lambertville

Because NJ-179 is a state road, putting in a sidewalk from Connaught Hill is difficult

A man walks from Connaught Hill to downtown Lambertville on the shoulder of NJ-179

Lambertville’s Connaught Hill is the city’s “middle hill,” renowned for hosting the old Lambertville High School and the Lyndon B. Johnson administration when they kicked off the “War on Poverty.”

The hill is the steepest in town, and the only one that includes contiguous gridded blocks divided between both Lambertville and West Amwell. It also has virtually no safe pedestrian access to the rest of the city.

Erin Durborow lives on the hill and is now more cautious after becoming a mother.

“I would never try to cross with them in the stroller . . . people that don’t live up here usually fail to realize there is a crosswalk. Drivers can’t really see around the curve as they come up the highway anyway,” said Durborow.

Kelly Easton, who grew up on Connaught Hill, noted that her parents did let her walk into town when she was younger, but never bike, and somewhat jokingly described her experiences running across the crosswalk as a “game of death.”

Durborow’s neighbor Theo Krantz sees people do the walk all the the time.

“There are no sidewalks, nowhere to walk once you get onto 179, and it’s also very dark at night,” she said.

Krantz recalled once offering a ride to a parent walking her kids to Lambertville Public School (LPS) in the rain, an all-too-common occurrence. Because the hill is divided into two municipalities, children of households living on the West Amwell side are able to have their school-aged children bused to school. But if a family is on the Lambertville section of the hill, they do not have that luxury, and must drive or walk.

Lambertville Mayor David DelVecchio sympathized with Durborow and Krantz.

“If you live up there, and you have a little kid, you can’t walk to a park, for example. You really can’t. Which is why we put a little pocket park up there, to give those residents something at least,” he said.

Asked about one resident’s desire to connect Hancock Street to the sidewalk near Nicola’s Pizza, the mayor replied, “It’s a four-lane state highway, so I don’t know what we can do. It is what it is, it’s tough to create pedestrian access with that situation.”

Lambertville's hills (Google Maps Modified Screenshot)

Lambertville’s hills (Google Maps Modified Screenshot)

A pedestrian was killed walking to work in April 2006 outside of the Valparaiso’s convenience store plaza on Route 165, in between Connaught and nearby Cottage Hill. In late 2008, the city installed a traffic light near that location at Swan Street, which gave Cottage Hill residents safer pedestrian access into town, paid for by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, who also helped improve the intersection’s sidewalk area. Mayor DelVecchio said the traffic light there was unrelated to that pedestrian fatality and had been planned for years.

To the north, on Music Mountain, one section of Lambert’s Hill has stairs and a short crosswalk over State Route 29 to the CVS Plaza. And on the southern side of Music Mountain, there is now the Lambertville Nature Trail, which snakes behind LPS, and was a joint effort by the Lambertville Environmental Commission and Eagle Scout Wyatt Brady in 2006-07.

“My dad was on the planning board back then and he knew that the town had been trying to buy the property for some time. They finally got it, and I got to work,” Brady said. “I got wood donated from Niece Lumber, and Brown Tree Service gave us wood chips.”

Today, the trail provides pedestrian and hiking access from Music Mountain down to York Street.

According to a 2015 Rutgers Bloustein School of Public Policy report, 44% of pedestrian fatalities occurred on state roads, 72% occurred when it was dark, and continuous street lighting did not seem to help.

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About the Author

- Steve Chernoski is a writer, film director and teacher who lives in Lambertville. Here's his website: http://stevechernoski.com.

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