The background story to the road in front of you, today known as Bergen Street, is part of our region’s ongoing love-hate relationship with highways. Believe it or not, Bergen Street was planned during the late 1920s as part of Arctic Parkway, a scenic thoroughfare that would have offered an alternate route between Princeton and Trenton. Parkways were America’s original solution to enjoyable automobile travel, intended as part park for leisurely Sunday drives and part uncongested, non-commercial commuter roads. New York’s Westchester County pioneered the concept with the Bronx River Parkway, constructed from 1906 to 1925, and other counties attempted to follow suit, usually with mixed results.
LHT Arctic Parkway
Arctic Ice Cream, 1951 (Facebook/Arctic Ice Cream).
Mercer County planners proposed Arctic Parkway during the 1920s, laying out a route across farmland to the northwest of U.S. 206, bypassing Lawrenceville. Why they chose the name Arctic Parkway remains a mystery, but it may have commemorated the first sightings of the North Pole by air in 1926.
Arctic Parkway may have been one of New Jersey’s first proposed bypasses to stumble out of the block in the automobile age, but it would not be the last. Lawrence, Hopewell and other neighboring municipalities, lying slap in the middle of the Philadelphia-New York corridor, were in the crosshairs of transportation planners from an early date. Over the decades, alternative alignments for two U.S. 206 bypasses, I-95 and I-295 have all been charted across the terrain, with I-295 the only one reaching completion during the 1970s.
Transportation planning came of age in the 1930s and one of its main tools was traffic counting.
From an early date, traffic counts showed volumes exceeding the capacity of the existing roads and congestion worsening. U.S. 206, which followed the colonial King’s Highway, and U.S. 1, which followed the Trenton and New Brunswick Turnpike of 1805, would never be up to the job. Slowdowns caused by local intersections and cars pulling into and out of driveways and parking lots were unavoidable on these old roads. Adding extra lanes upset adjacent property owners and only partially improved traffic flow.
Only a short segment of Arctic Parkway was actually built and that was in Ewing. Since 1941, this has remained with us with the help of a celebrated ice cream factory.
Lack of funding, combined with the onset of the Great Depression, was probably the main reason for Mercer County dropping the rest of the project. Bergen Street came much later, in the 1980s, a result of a developer following a gently curving street alignment surveyed decades prior for Arctic Parkway.
As early as 1947, the State of New Jersey projected the need for a limited-access interstate highway passing somewhere north or south of Lawrenceville, ultimately trending around Princeton and then on to Somerville or New Brunswick.
The State produced models, maps and exhibits and held numerous hearings to promote the idea. Public and political opposition to the loss of private property, the damage to farms and the bypassing of small businesses was immediate and only grew in intensity with the environmental movements of the 1960s. To this day, I-295 follows a circular path around Trenton to connect with the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95 because of a missing link in the freeway system. One of the positive outcomes of the “highway war” was our region’s heightened appreciation for preserving open spaces and alternative modes of exploring them, like the LHT.
LHT Arctic Parkway Map
Lawrence Township Master Plan, 1966 (Lawrence Township Archives).
LHT Arctic Pkwy Traffic Counting
Traffic Counting Survey, circa 1940 (Department of Transportation Photographs, New Jersey State Archives).
LHT Historic Site Arctic Parkway
Freeway Model, circa 1960 (Department of Transportation Photographs, New Jersey State Archives).
LHT Arctic Parkway Map
Click the image for details in Google Maps™

Thank you for your support!

© Copyright 2024. Lawrence Hopewell Trail
is a not-for-profit, section 501(c)(3). EIN: 20-0511132

The Lawrence Hopewell Trail

The Historic Hunt House
197 Blackwell Road
Pennington, NJ 08534

Stay in the loop.