Army Corps report puts Route 92 in limbo
Friday, October 06, 2006
BY SUE EPSTEIN
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
released its final environmental study on the proposed Route 92 project
in southern Middlesex County, and it is noteworthy for what it is lacking: a
recommendation on whether permits should be granted to build
In a press release, the Corps said there would be no final recommendation on whether
to grant the permits to fill in almost 14 acres of freshwater wetlands
to build the 6.7-mile toll road connecting Route 1 and the New Jersey
Turnpike until the Turnpike Authority
obtains all the permits and certificates it needs from the state
Department of Environmental Protection.
The move effectively places the
project in limbo, according to officials, because the Turnpike
Authority has transferred $175 million, all but $6 million of the money
it held for construction of Route 92, to another account for use in
widening the Turnpike from Interchange 8A in South Brunswick to
Interchange 6 in Mansfield Township, Burlington County.
"Our spending priorities right now are
the widening the Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway," said
Turnpike Authority spokesman Joseph Orlando. "The project to widen the
Turnpike is the largest undertaken by the authority since the Turnpike
was constructed 50 years ago and is a
bigger necessity than anything else right now."
The move disappointed both opponents and supporters of the project
Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra
Club -- a main opponent of the project -- said the whole study should be redone because it
doesn't take the Turnpike widening project into consideration.
Damien Newton, the New Jersey coordinator for the Tri-State
Transportation Campaign, an activist organization that opposed the
project, said the Army Corps "punted."
"They're saying they'll wait until the Turnpike does something," Newton
said. "It's a great example of
government bureaucracy. The project is not going anywhere but the
permitting process is going on anyway."
South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said he found it "difficult to comment" on a study that made
Gambatese, whose township residents and governing body have actively
opposed the road, said he believes the project "is a dead issue."
Dianne Brake, director of the Regional Planning Partnership of
Middlesex, Somerset and Mercer Counties, a nonprofit planning
partnership, a supporter of the Route 92 project, was "very
"We also support the widening of the Turnpike," Brake said. "I
understand in times of limited resources, choices have to be made, but
we've been studying this road for so many years. Widening our
north-south routes is very important, but the need for an east-west
connector is still very important for the growth of this region."
Entangled in political intrigue and criticism from environmentalists, Route 92 has been controversial almost
since it was first proposed more than 15 years ago.
The road would travel through farms,
industrial parks and open space, mostly in South Brunswick. The
$450 million project had gained state approvals to fill in the wet
lands in 1999 over the objections of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, forcing the Army Corps to step in.
But the permit approvals ex pired last year, and the Turnpike Authority
had to reapply to the state for new ones.
The Corps issued its draft environmental impact statement on the
project two years ago. While the agency made no recommendations on
which route the road should take, the study did indicate that the
proposed road is needed to meet the traffic demands in southern
After the draft environmental study
was released, the EPA reiterated its opposition to the granting of the
Sue Epstein covers Middlesex County. She can be reached by phone at
(732) 404-8085 or by e-mail at sep firstname.lastname@example.org.