A year and a half ago, a Princeton woman at the intersection of Washington Road and Nassau Street was struck and killed by a cement truck as she crossed the street in the afternoon.

Starting Monday, the Department of Transportation will conduct a two-week pedestrian phase pilot program that gives walkers the opportunity to go through the intersection without worrying about traffic.

“What this phase will do is essentially give a red light to all the vehicles and allow pedestrians an exclusive period to cross the street in any direction,” said Steve Schapiro, the DOT spokesman.

“For the system to work, a pedestrian must push the push button on the existing traffic signal pole to initiate the pedestrian phase.”

Schapiro said when somebody pushes the walk button, after 90 to 132 seconds, all cars in every direction will get a red light and the pedestrian signal that says 'walk' will light up.

Pedestrians will have about 39 seconds to cross the street during the pedestrian phase.

Schapiro said the DOT is always looking to improve safety, for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, and one advantage of a pedestrian phase “is that all traffic is stopped, no turns are allowed and that eliminates the conflict of turning vehicles with pedestrians, so it gives pedestrians a safer way to be crossing the street.”

One of the disadvantages is that “you’re increasing the number of phases at the intersection, so that’s going to create a longer wait time."

When asked if having an exclusive pedestrian crossing element could spread to other parts of the Garden State, Schapiro said any time the DOT takes on this kind of project safety is always paramount.

“While ensuring that we’re having the best operational performance of the intersection, so we’ve got to balance the competing needs," he said.

He said once the two-week trial period ends, the DOT will review what happened before making any decisions about whether or not to keep the pedestrian phase in place or expand the system to other areas in New Jersey.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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