Army Corps issues Rt. 92 environmental impact statement
By: Matthew Kirdahy , Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 04/22/2004
Public hearing on 385-page document slated for May 20.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
unveiled a Draft Environmental Impact Study to the public Wednesday
that could determine whether Route 92 gets built.
reviews the environmental impact, traffic alternatives and traffic
impacts on the region of Route 92 — a proposed 6.7-mile toll road that
would connect the N.J. Turnpike at Exit 8A with Route 1 at Ridge Road.
While the draft EIS did not take a position on the highway, it said
that construction of a new east-west highway would improve east-west
traffic and provide an alternative for traffic moving north and south,
and reduce traffic impacts on local roads.
Koko Cronin, project
manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, had said in the past that the
corps would not issue a recommendation on the roadway until all the
cooperating agencies — the state Department of Transportation, the N.J.
Turnpike Authority and the state Fish and Wildlife Commission —
finished reviewing and commenting on the preliminary draft of the
environmental impact statement. She was not in her office Wednesday and
could not be reached for comment.
The public will get to comment
on the draft EIS at a public hearing slated for May 20 at the Raddisson
Hotel on Route 1 in South Brunswick from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a pause
for a dinner break.
At the public hearing, proponents and
opponents to Route 92 will get speak on the 385-page study, which is
available for review at the South Brunswick Public Library reference
The Army Corps 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.
The state permits expired March 29, but the Turnpike Authority has
said it would apply to renew the permits, but wasn't sure when.
Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers has said it would continue its
The South Brunswick Township Council
is opposed to the
highway, as are the governing bodies of Hopewell Borough and Township,
Montgomery, Franklin, Hillsborough and Rocky Hill. Plainsboro,
Cranbury, North Brunswick, West Windsor, Monroe and Princeton Borough
and Township are in favor of the highway.
Local residents who
reviewed the report on Wednesday, the first day it was available to the
public, were critical of its findings.
"I reviewed the executive
summary and thought that as EIS reports go, it seemed kind of
noncommentary," South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said Wednesday
evening. "I didn't think it really
defined a case for Route 92. At
best, it was lukewarm."
Steve Masticola, a Kingston resident who has been a vocal opponent of
the highway, called the report "sickening
"It's making statements that
contradict all common sense and
scientific evidence," he said Wednesday. "When was the last time
putting more asphalt down made traffic go away."
president of The Regional Planning Partnership (formerly known as the
MSM Regional Council), a consortium of municipal governments and area
businesses, said she needed to review the draft environmental report
before commenting. Her organization has been a proponent of Route 92
from the start of the discussions.
"We were waiting to make be
sure about our position is accurate," Ms. Brake said. "We support the
position that an east-west connector is very important to the region."
Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu, who also favors the highway, said he also
is waiting to read the report.
"We're pleased that it has been released," Mayor Cantu said. "(The
DEIS) is a process called for and we're glad to see it moving forward."
Cathy Dowgin, who lives on Friendship Road near where the highway
would be built, said she would try to ensure a large turnout of
opponents at the public hearing.
"They're impressed by numbers,"
she said Wednesday. "We have
to encourage people to go there,
regardless of whether they speak or not, just to get bodies there and
say that we're against it."
The Army Corps screened 17
alternatives for the draft study including a "no-action" alternative
for environmental effects, socioeconomic effects and responsiveness to
project purpose and need. Those not meeting the criteria were
eliminated from further consideration.
Those that met the
screening criteria were fully evaluated. They were a no-action
alternative, construction of proposed Route 92, widening Route 1 and
widening Route 1 and removing traffic signals.
The draft study
said that a new east-west highway would provide a high-speed link
between the major north-south highways in central New Jersey, improving
east-west mobility, providing access to an alternative route for
north-south traffic that now uses Route 1 and reducing the adverse
impacts of through traffic on local communities.
project, which runs through parts of South Brunswick, Plainsboro and
Monroe, would pass through land mostly used for agriculture, with
lesser amounts of parkland and other open space, commercial and
residential uses also present, the abstract portion of the DEIS says.
The DEIS reviewed existing environmental conditions, which it used
as the basis of the impact evaluation of the no-action alternative. The
environmental section includes sections on geology/soils, water
resources, wetlands, fish and wildlife, farmland, historic and cultural
resources, air quality, transportation noise, aesthetics, known
contaminated sites, human health, socioceconomics, land use and
The Turnpike Authority would fill 12.03
acres of wetlands during the proposed construction of Route 92 and 1.16
acres would be permanently affected by shading from elevated section of
the roadway, according to the EIS.
Analysis shows that proposed
Route 92 would result in emissions of volatile organic compounds,
carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides that are all significantly less
than the no-action scenario, the EIS said. The proposed Route 92 is
expected to meet EPA regulations.
Zoning in the study areas
ranges from low-density residential to commercial to light industrial.
The proposed Route 92 corridor passes mainly through office, research,
conference and low-density residential areas. Approximately, 3.9 miles
of the 6.7 miles of proposed Route 92 would pass through land currently
assessed as farmland for property tax purposes. A significant stretch
of the eastern portion of the proposed Route 92 would also pass through
active agricultural land.
The proposed Route 92 roadway and
associated interchanges would displace approximately 210 acres of
active agricultural land. In addition, the proposed roadway would
interfere with access to an additional 78 acres of agricultural land.
None of the land is subject to preservation under the state
In the demographic portion of the DEIS, it
says South Brunswick has grown by 46 percent between 1990-2000, almost
four times greater than 12 percent growth of the county population
during the decade.
Since 1980, strong population and employment
growth has occurred in the communities along Route 1 around Princeton,
the report says. This growth has resulted in increased traffic volumes
on the area's roads, including Route 1 and the local and secondary
east-west roads, according to the report. Continued rapid growth is
projected in this area over the next two decades, the report said.
The DEIS says the construction of Route 92 would result in a 17
percent reduction in peak-hour truck volume on the local and secondary
east-west roads in the traffic study area and along Route 27 in Kingston
Peak-hour travel times are projected to decrease by an average of 10
percent if Route 92 is built, the report said. Travel times between
Route 1 in Plainsboro and the Turnpike Exit 8A are expected to improve
by about 30 percent, the report says.
Under the Route 1 widening
and signal removal alternative, the amount of through traffic on the
local and secondary east-west roads would be reduced by 10 percent, as
compared with the no action alternative, the report said.
a wider Route 1 could carry more traffic, but would also attract to
Route 1 a large number of vehicles that would otherwise use alternate
routes to avoid congestion on Route 1, the report says. As a result,
Route 1 would remain heavily congested, it said. Most of the new
traffic attracted to Route 1 would be routed away from Route 130 and
the Turnpike, the report says, which would likely be left with spare
Peak-hour truck volumes on the local and secondary
east-west roads would be expected to drop by 8 percent, as compared
with the no-action scenario, the report said. The report said there is
expected to be a surge in traffic congestion caused by a large amount
of development over the next 25 years and that it would not be relieved
by the no-action alternative.
According to the DEIS, the
construction of proposed Route 92 is expected to reduce the amount of
peak-hour through traffic on the local and secondary east-west roads by
18 percent in 2028, as compared with the no action alternative. Through
traffic may decrease by more than 60 percent on several of these roads,
the study says. In addition to reducing peak-hour traffic levels on the
existing east-west roads in the study area, modeling indicates that
construction of proposed Route 92 would generally reduce peak-hour
traffic volumes along the most constricted portion of Route 1 in South
Brunswick and North Brunswick. The traffic study area consists of South
Brunswick, Plainsboro, Cranbury, West Windsor, East Windsor and
The DEIS also says the Army Corps will wait to
discuss several specific impact issues at the public hearing that
combine several environmental and socioeconomic factors. One of those
factors includes transportation.