Major east-west route in South Brunswick wins approval

by Sue Epstein/The Star-Ledger
Monday November 17, 2008, 7:57 PM

The long-awaited state permits are in, and bids are expected to go out in January to complete Route 522 in South Brunswick, the township's first major east-west route.

The Department of Environmental Protection signed off on an agreement allowing wetlands on three acres off Fresh Ponds Road to be filled in, and the road's final 1.9 miles to be built.

To compensate the state for parkland lost to the road project, Middlesex County purchased a sand mine near Pigeon Swamp State Park. The 54-acre parcel could also provide a new entrance to the 1,078-acre park, now closed to the public.

"Everything is in place," said South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese. "We expect to go out to bid in January. Hopefully, we can start sometime in the spring."

The stretch to be built would run from Route 130, where the road now dead-ends, to Route 535, also known as Cranbury Road, about half a mile from Exit 8A of the New Jersey Turnpike.

Gambatese said the final stretch of the roadway is expected to cost the town and county about $6 million. Trucks that service the area's industrial parks and warehouses would be able to use a four-lane highway -- two lanes in each direction -- instead of local roads to and from the Turnpike.

Route 522, known as Ridge Road in some sections of the township, currently connects Routes 1, 27 and 130. It is a county road, and the Middlesex County freeholders have provided some of the road's funding.

The construction of Route 522 was a key component in the township's objection to a proposal by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to build Route 92, a $350 million toll road between Exit 8A and Route 1 through South Brunswick.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency also cited Route 522 as it opposed construction of Route 92, which would have filled in about 14 acres of freshwater wetlands. The Turnpike Authority killed the project in December 2006.

"Once the project's done, we can get the DOT to formally approve our truck route," said Gambatese, referring to the state Department of Transportation. "We've had our application in to them for two or three years, but they wouldn't do anything until we completed 522 -- something I understand."

When the final stretch of 522 goes out to bid, the plans will include upgrading the intersection of Dean's Rhode Hall Road and Fresh Ponds Road. The intersection, used extensively by tractor trailers going to nearby warehouses, will be widened and a traffic signal installed.

"This has been five years in waiting," Gambatese said. "It's so good to be able to complete that last stretch."