Well, not really midnight, more like 9pm.
In an effort to finish this rather late assignment, a good friend and I took a drive through our hometown of Bridgewater, NJ to find the best and worst examples of urban planning in our town. Since Bridgewater is what you might consider an edge city, most of the “urban” planning turns out to be “traffic” planning. Bridgewater requires a car to get around anywhere, meaning it’s almost impossible to just get out and take pictures of whatever we needed to. Hence my good friend, The Photographer, who snapped these pictures in a drive-by fashion as we went along.
I could say we drove so late because we wanted to admire our town at night. I could also say it’s because our town is beautiful night or day, and we wanted to show that. I could say these things, but I won’t. The truth is, I needed pictures, it was late, the assignment was late, and we were already in Bridgewater for dinner. Just call me #BrutallyHonestMike.
Let’s start on a positive note: literally a minute from my house is the center of Martinsville. The intersection above is of Washington Valley Road (my street) and Chimney Rock Road. The building at the end of the street above was formerly the Martinsville school (now just a bunch of office space). It sits at the top of Chimney Rock Road, which itself runs up a huge hill. This makes the building visible from quite far down the road, making drivers feel as if they’re going somewhere as they drive up. For me, it was always a signal of home. For my photographer, it signaled us reaching the mini-town of Martinsville (which is really just a post-office address, not a separate entity from Bridgewater).
What I also love about this intersection is that, to the right, the light has a left-turn only light, meaning the left side has a delayed green. Since most people turn right if they’re coming from the direction this photo was taken, this gives them the perfect opportunity to right turn on red without worry of being killed, which is perfect for freeing up traffic at what could otherwise be a very backed up area. Good job, urban planners.
But of course, then we have the bad planning. This area recently got three new stop signs. The first is the obvious one above; the second is circled in red; the third is out of sight but is being pointed to. The thing is, this area, while well-traveled, is ONLY well traveled from two ways: where the red circled stop sign and the big obvious stop sign above are. Additionally, people normally go from one stop sign to the other, making an elbow on the road. In fact, this is what happens 95% of the time. All these stop signs serve to do is force people to stop unnecessarily, making them an idiotic pause in traffic. While it’s true that there has been construction lately, the amount of traffic that comes through here does not justify two stop signs. Bad planning. Bad bad bad.
Let’s get back to the good stuff. Here we see the exit from Route 22 to the Bridgewater Commons Mall. On one side of this divide is another exit to Route 202-206. On the other, a direct path into the mall. If you look closely, you can also see a blue and white walking bridge over this stretch of highway. What I really love about this is that the bridge goes from Immaculata High School to the mall, meaning kids going to the mall after school won’t die. This bridge was built within my lifetime, which means that someone didn’t think about this until it became a problem, but at least they eventually thought about it. So good work, planners. Keeping people from not-dying since at least 8 years ago.
Back to the bad. This stretch of road that follows the above arrow is actually part of Chimney Rock Road. It’s one of the most unattractive stretches of land development I’ve ever seen, because it’s just ugly construction-supply buildings and road that badly needs paving. It also leads to a merge onto Route 22 East in such a way that is incredibly confusing and bad and that I didn’t actually snap a picture of. Just know that it merges badly and that it’s ugly. So, so ugly.
The last good bit of Urban Planning/whatever that I found in my town was this. This is the exit onto 287 North from Route 22. What I like about this is that it gives really good warning beforehand to switch lanes if you’re not getting on the interstate with a sign half a mile down. Plus, it deals well with heavy traffic, and there’s never really a complete stop (just slight sluggishness). Actually, this was very light on traffic before the construction on Route 22 started. Which brings me to my last picture…
Yes, no conversation on urban planning in Bridgewater would be complete without me referencing the awful construction on Route 22. This right here is what I talked about in my last post, the awful over-sized jug-handle away from the new bridge. This stupid piece of work doesn’t make sense. it was built as a way to get on to Route 22 without crossing the railroad tracks, forcing it to make a very long and large turn. This would be thoughtful and helpful if the railroad in question was actually in use, but it’s not. In fact, because of the construction, the railroad CAN’T be used, indicating that this awful design is permanent. Plus, let’s not forget that even in the best of times, this rail line was used twice a week around midnight, interfering with traffic for absolutely no one. Why they would go to such a huge effort to avoid railroad tracks that aren’t even used? This makes absolutely no sense and I will never stop being angry about it, especially because it messed up traffic for this whole area. I hate the urban planner who came up with this. I will never stop hating them. They hold a special place in my heart for people I have never met yet have ruined my life. Thanks, Urban Planner. Thanks so much.
As I said earlier, Bridgewater is too much of an edge city to have anything besides “traffic” planning. Places sort of in Bridgewater that I also could have looked at include the Somerville Circle and Main street Somerville, which I didn’t look at since they’re probably both in Somerville. Maybe one day I’ll do a post on the history of Bridgewater’s urban development as understood by one of its youngest coherent residents. Perhaps one day. For now, enjoy this rant on what’s good and bad in Bridgewater.