Assembly candidates discuss Route 92 proposal

By: Joseph Harvie, Staff Writer    
South Brunswick Post, 10/13/2005

Republicans and Democrats are on different sides of the Route 92 issue.

Candidates seeking the two open state Assembly seats up for grabs in the 14th District, which includes South Brunswick, differ when it comes to Route 92.

Republican candidates firmly opposed the road for environmental and quality of life issues while the Democratic candidates said they would not take a definitive stance on the road, and said more studies on the proposal should be done.

Route 92 is a 6.7-mile limited access toll road that would connect the N.J. Turnpike Exit 8A with Route 1 at Ridge Road.

Republican incumbent Bill Baroni and former South Brunswick Police Chief Michael Paquette are running against Democratic incumbent Linda Greenstein and Hamilton Councilman Dan Benson.

They are seeking the two, two-year Assembly seats that will be up for grabs Nov. 8.

The candidates discussed Route 92, Route 1 and the Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex high-speed rail line with the South Brunswick Post. This week, candidates discuss Route 92.

The Republican candidates said they would push for discussion and debate in the Assembly on the toll road if they are elected. They also said they would push to have the money set aside for the road used instead to widen the N.J. Turnpike from Exit 8A to Exit 5.

The Democrats said more studies on the highway should include infrastructure changes such as Route 522 and Route 133. They also recommended that a roundtable discussion be held with all of the towns affected by the road. A roundtable was proposed by the Princeton Joint Environmental Commission in late 2004.

Bill Baroni

"There are no more long-term projects as important as stopping Route 92," Mr. Baroni said.

Mr. Baroni said he read the Army Corps of Engineers Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Route 92 and said the road would have a negative impact on the environment and the quality of life of residents living around the proposed highway.

Mr. Baroni said the highway would disrupt large tracts of open space including, Friendship and Sondek parks.

"I walked Route 92 in April 2004," Mr. Baroni said. "I put my boots on and a pair of jeans and walked most of Route 92. It would put a superhighway through some of the last remaining open space in Middlesex County."

Mr. Baroni said there are alternatives to the road that South Brunswick pushed for and completed to make east-west travel easier.

"South Brunswick did its part by building Route 522," Mr. Baroni said.

Mr. Baroni said he introduced legislation that would potentially end Route 92.

"I introduced legislation removing the authority to build Route 92 to the Transportation Committee," Mr. Baroni said. "The only person who has the power to call a hearing on the legislation is John Wisniewski, chairman of the Transportation Committee, who refused."

Mr. Wisniewski is a Democrat in the 19th District, which includes Sayreville.

Mr. Baroni said that he would push to remove the money that is set aside for Route 92 and shift it to fund the widening of the turnpike from Exit 8A to Exit 6.

Dan Benson

Mr. Benson said there needs to be more discussion on Route 92, and more public input before it is built.

He said new studies should be done so that the road is built for its intended purpose, which is to get people from Exit 8A to Ridge Road at Route 1.

He said the widening of the N.J. Turnpike from Exit 8 to Exit 5 and other north and south transportation projects should be accounted for when new studies are done on the road.

"Other options need to be considered in the studies," Mr. Benson said. "Route 522 in South Brunswick, Route 133, the realignment of Exit 8 and Exit 8A."

Mr. Benson said communities should move forward with plans to improve east-west traffic in the area. He said he would like to see the town, county and state finish extending Route 522, which is slated end near the N.J. Turnpike.

He said he would also like to see a decision made on the road soon.

"It is not fair to communities who have to develop around this," Mr. Benson said. "People make a decision to come here for businesses. Great communities and great schools need to know that there is some clarity on the issue."

Linda Greenstein

Ms. Greenstein said that she wants to see a round table discussion started on the highway before it gets built.

"We need to have a dialog with all of the municipalities involved," Ms. Greenstein said. "We have various groups with a stake in it. They should talk and let the public get more involved."

Ms. Greenstein said supporters and opponents of the road have valid points and those need to be discussed. She said she would like to see a resolution date put on the road, so that a conclusion is made one way or another.

"They need to update the studies," Ms. Greenstein said. "You can't sit on it for five years."

She said that because several roads, including Route 133 and Route 522, have been built in the last several years. She said new studies should reflect what those roads have done and what will happen when N.J. Turnpike Exit 8A is realigned to meet up with Cranbury Road and Exit 8 is realigned with Route 133.

"With all of these improvements that have been made since the last studies were done, more studies should be initiated," Ms. Greenstein said.

Ms. Greenstein also said the highway raises environmental concerns.

"I have concerns about the need for the road and the environmental impact on the road," Ms. Greenstein said. "In addition, the EPA has raised serious concerns about the road over the years, and because of that, what they said is a concern to me."

Mike Paquette

Mr. Paquette, the former South Brunswick police chief, said he has lived in South Brunswick for 30 years, and has seen traffic increase to extraordinary levels in the area of Route 1 and Ridge Road.

He said that according to the DEIS, Route 92 would place 15,000 more cars on roads that could not handle that amount of traffic.

"You cannot put 15,000 cars at the intersection of Route 1 and Ridge Road," Mr. Paquette said. "The only thing that 92 does is add gridlock to an area that is already gridlocked."

He said that during the morning and evening rush hours, that area of town is swamped with vehicles heading to businesses near Route 1 and the High School.

Mr. Paquette said that from June 2002 to April 2004 there have been 1,600 accidents causing four fatalities on Route 1 in the township.

"I don't see things getting better with Route 92," Mr. Paquette said. "We have made an alternate route and that is Route 522. In the short term, money should be allocated by the township, state and county to elongate Route 522 to go to Route 535. If the idea is to get people from the Turnpike to Route 1, there it is. "

Mr. Paquette said the road is bad for the environment, quality of life and the safety of the residents of the South Brunswick and the rest of the 14th District.

"The negatives out weigh the positives on this road," Mr. Paquette said. "If I am honored enough to be elected I will work day in and day out to make sure that road is never built."

Mr. Paquette said he would introduce and push legislation that would end Route 92. He said the money would be better spent if it were set aside for the widening of the Turnpike.