Army Corps completes Rt. 92 draft
By: Sharlee Joy DiMenichi , Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 12/31/2003
State agencies reviewing preliminary document.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed a draft of an environmental
study that could determine the fate of a proposed limited-access highway
linking Route 1 and the N.J. Turnpike.
The study -- currently dubbed a draft preliminary environmental impact
statement -- reviews the environmental impact of Route 92, a proposed
6.7-mile toll road that would connect the Turnpike at Exit 8A with
Route 1 at Ridge Road.
The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting the review because federal
and state environmental agencies disagree over whether permits should
be issued for the filling of wetlands. The federal Environmental
Protection Agency refused to issue permits in 1998, saying there were less
environmentally disruptive alternatives, while the state Department
of Environmental Protection issued permits in 1999.
Army Corps of Engineers project manager Koko Cronin said the corps would
not issue a recommendation on the roadway until all the cooperating
agencies finished reviewing and commenting on the preliminary draft
of the environmental impact statement.
Cooperating agencies that agreed at the beginning of the Army Corps of
Engineers' review to provide feedback on the report include the state Department
of Transportation, the N.J. Turnpike Authority and the state Fish and
Wildlife Commission, Ms. Cronin said.
She said corps officials are still analyzing the comments of cooperating
agencies and would not release or summarize the report or the agencies' comments.
Officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection said
the agency is reviewing all alternatives and has not made a decision
on whether the highway should be built. The permits had been issued
by then-Commissioner Robert Shinn under then-Gov. Christie Whitman.
The administration of Gov. James McGreevey has not taken an official
position since taking office in January 2002. Environmental Commissioner
Bradley Campbell was not available for comment.
According to a Dec. 10 letter to the Turnpike Executive Director Michael
La Polla, Mr. Campbell and Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere
said the state departments' "primary objective is to ensure that each
alternative is fairly considered and fully appraised." The letter said
"it would be premature to identify a preferred alternative" and that
the commissioners "urge that we begin the public process with a document
that analyzes and presents all of the alternatives on an equal footing."
The letter was given to the Post by the DEP. The DEP also provided a
copy of the comments it has forwarded to the Turnpike Authority, which
as applicant is responsible for collecting comments from the cooperating
The DEP asked that public transit alternatives be explored "during final
design" and that these include "improvements to existing services and the
development of new services and routes, particularly along the east-west
local/secondary roads in the study area."
The DEP also recommended exploring methods to mitigate contamination
by runoff from the road and suggested protecting environmentally sensitive
areas from indirect damage from the road. It said that while no interchanges
are planned for environmentally sensitive areas, "interchanges near/adjacent
to these areas," such as the proposed Perrine Road interchange, "would
indirectly enhance access to the Environmentally Sensitive planning
Area." It is asking that, should the road be built, the Turnpike Authority
"work closely with (the state Office of Smart Growth) and local municipalities
to insure that this indirect enhancement of access will result in positive
effects to ... the environment."
DEP officials said the agency's comments should not be taken as an endorsement
of the road and only as an indication that the agency wants to ensure that
all alternatives are examined.
Staff of the other cooperating agencies did not return repeated phone
The road is opposed by the governing bodies in South Brunswick, Franklin,
Montgomery, Rocky Hill, Hillsborough and the Hopewells. It has been
endorsed by Plainsboro, Cranbury, Monroe, West Windsor, North Brunswick
and the Princetons.
South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said any study of the environmental
impact of the proposed highway should demonstrate how it will affect the
township's water supply. He said the route runs through a recharge area
for an aquifer that provides water for the township.
"You don't want it to contaminate it (the aquifer) with oil drippings
or gas drippings from trucks or other vehicles," Mayor Gambatese said.
Mr. Gambatese said that because the wetlands allow water to percolate
through the ground into the aquifer, the road might reduce
South Brunswick's water supply.
"Eventually the aquifer will go dry," Mayor Gambatese said.
Noelle Mackay, deputy director of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed
Association, said that the wetlands control floods and pollution and that
building a road through them could result in a significant environmental
loss for the area.