Crowd at hearing pans Rt. 92 study
By: Matthew Kirdahy , Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 05/27/2004
About 86 percent of those speaking at hearing voice their
disapproval of highway.
Of the 70 people who spoke at a
hearing on Route 92 last week, only eight supported the N.J. Turnpike
Authority's plans to build the east-west toll road, which
proponents say would ease traffic congestion in the region.
On the other side, opposition to the
proposed 6.7-mile road was strong, with members of the Township
Council, state legislators and South Brunswick residents letting their
opinions be known. Critics of the highway derided it as an
unnecessary "road to no place" that would damage the environment and
actually increase traffic on local roads, including historic Kingston.
The May 20 hearing was part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' study
of the proposed Route 92. The controversy centers on the Corps' draft
Environmental Impact Statement, released April 21. The study says that,
in some cases, Route 92 will alleviate some of the traffic problems in
South Brunswick and surrounding towns in Middlesex County.
As part of the process, public comment will continue through June 14,
although there will be no more public hearings until the final EIS is
released. Comments submitted in writing and recorded in a private
recording booth were accepted at the public hearing, with the names of
people kept private.
The Army Corps is conducting the study to determine if
environmental permits should be issued to the N.J. Turnpike Authority
for the proposed highway. A final EIS will not be issued until the
public comments are transcribed and evaluated.
The Army Corps will contact all public hearing attendees by mail who
completed a hearing registration with locations where they can find the
In the final EIS, the Army Corps will address the concerns raised by
the members of the public, as the hearing was just a source of
Among those that were vocal about
their disapproval of the draft EIS and the highway were Township
Council members Carol Barrett, Edmund Luciano Jr., Ted Van Hessen and
Chris Killmurray. Mayor Frank Gambatese was out of the country, but has
voiced his opposition in the past.
Two sessions comprised the hearing, one that ran from 2 to 5 p.m. and
one that ran from 7 p.m. to midnight. Each person had to register for
an opportunity to speak.
Lt. Col. Kurt Hoffman of the Army Corps said there were about 10 people
who didn't get a chance to speak in the afternoon session, but had an
opportunity to re-register at the evening session, where there were few
empty seats. There were no speakers remaining by 11:40 p.m.
Opponents of Route 92 argued that
Route 522, which runs east-west, provides the same function of what
Route 92 would do without the financial burden and environmental
degradation. At the same time, opponents questioned why Route 522 was
barely mentioned in the EIS report. People wanted to know about the
environmental impact on the land both during and after construction.
Residents of Kingston said their
community, which already deals with narrow roadways and traffic backups
on Route 27 and intersecting roads, needs to be considered in the final
EIS to make the study legitimate.
Opponents of Route 92 also wanted to see more public input from the
residents, like those in South Brunswick who are directly affected by
this toll road proposal.
On the other hand, supporters agreed with the findings of the Army
Corps in its EIS, saying the highway would have minimal environmental
and community impact when compared to the what would happen if no
action is taken on regional traffic problems. Supporters called the EIS
thorough and a clear indication of what this area needs to do to
alleviate traffic problems.
During the afternoon session, Michael
Gerrard, an attorney hired by South Brunswick to help fight Route 92,
told the Army Corps the EIS did not satisfy the National Environmental
Policy Act and the Clean Water Act.
Since the Turnpike Authority's environmental permits expired March 29,
environmental and storm water runoff regulations have changed and he
said the final EIS should include the new regulations.
The state DEP issued permits to the Turnpike Authority in 1999 after
the federal Environmental Protection Agency refused to issue permits in
1998 saying there were less environmentally disruptive alternatives to
Route 92. The N.J. Turnpike Authority has said it would reapply for
Mr. Gerrard called Route 92, a
road that would connect the Turnpike at Exit 8A to Route 1 at Ridge
Road, an "impermissible segmentation
of the region." He said the draft EIS didn't look closely
enough at the road's impact on wildlife.
"The highway would only make a trivial
contribution to (easing) traffic in this area and in some areas be
counterproductive," he said.
Assemblyman Bill Baroni and Steve
Cook, spokesperson for state Sen. Peter Inverso, Republicans who
represent South Brunswick and Plainsboro, also spoke in opposition to
Route 92. Mr. Cook read a statement prepared by the senator.
Sen. Inverso wrote that he had supported original plans for Route 92,
which carried a smaller price tag and would have had less of an impact
on the environment and local comminutes.
Hopewell Township Committeeman Jon
Edwards said the Army Corps should examine a bus rapid transit route as
an alternative for motorists. Hopewell adopted resolutions
opposing Route 92 in 1999 and 2000 he said.
"We need to get together and find solutions that don't include roads
like this," Mr. Edwards said.
Shirley Eberle, a Franklin Township
councilwoman, read Franklin's resolution in opposition of Route 92
just before George Ververides, the Middlesex County director of
planning, offered the first comments of the afternoon in favor of Route
"Good east-west movement in this region is paramount," Mr. Ververides
said. "The warehousing areas of the 8A corridor are going to be
important to that total project. The original Route 92 plan to connect
Route 206 to Hightstown was something the county supported 25 years
ago," he said.
"We have one of the largest consumer markets in this part of the
country and we feel that 92 will help to support that," Mr. Ververides
said. "We are aware of South Brunswick Township's concerns, but at the
same time we see the development in places like South Brunswick. And
since it's the fastest growing township in the region, we have to
create that east-west connector."
Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu voiced his township's support of Route 92,
prompting boos from the audience.
"We believe that Route 92 is a roadway essential not just to
Plainsboro's future, but also to that of the region," Mr. Cantu said.
"This is a position that has not been arrived at casually or
emotionally, but one born out of careful, independent evaluation. It is
clear from all the studies that have been done, including the recently
completed Draft EIS, that Route 92 is not only needed, but also
critical to the transportation circulation system of the region."
Plainsboro Planning Board member Arthur Lehrhaupt backed the mayor's
comments saying that roads like Dey Road are turning into the "defacto
Route 92," with traffic damaging the agricultural character of the
region. This could be kept from worsening if Route 92 gets built, he
"This highway should be built for the sake of the area and its
residents," Mr. Lehrhaupt said. "A hierarchy of roads is essential so
that our infrastructure is used for traffic volume they were planning
to handle. It is imperative that this critical east-west road is built."
Robert Sheehan, Plainsboro township administrator, said Route 92 is the
project that has been key regarding Plainsboro's land use and
"Now is the time to build the lost piece of our transportation puzzle,"
Mr. Sheehan said. "It's time to act. It's time to build this road."
Bob Wolfe, general manager of Princeton Forrestal Center, said the EIS
traffic study is thorough and the environmental impacts will come
despite the development of Route 92. Under the proposal, Route 92 will
have an interchange on Perrine Road, which will be realigned with the
entrance to the Forrestal Center.
"Route 92 will substantially reduce traffic far better than the other
alternatives," Mr. Wolfe said. "Smart growth does not mean no roads
should be built. They need to be built to help sustain development and
protect the environment. Route 92 has been designed smart in order to
avoid pitfalls of the past."
Dianne Brake, president of The Regional Planning Partnership, said her
organization has reviewed a possible Route 92 for 25 years and it
believes the highway is about creating a network to alleviate the
regional traffic problems. She said the delay in the project is a good
thing because it will adhere to the latest storm water rules and
improve water quality even more.
Edward Cohen of Monroe said the state Department of Transportation
considers traffic at Exit 8A the worst in the state. He said that in
the EIS there are no impediments to constructing the first part of the
highway from Route 1.
Cranbury Township resident Bill Wymer said he was for the highway and
he sees no better alternative to Route 92. He is a former South
Howard Bellizio, a former South Brunswick Township Committeeman and
mayor, didn't say if he was for or against the highway. But, he said
the township endorsed the highway in 1984, when it was supposed to
connect Route 95 and the N.J. Turnpike. If Route 92 is built, he said,
the state has to consider widening Route 1 and possibly building an
overpass offering greater access to surrounding areas, not just the
"Route 1 would have to be widened in any case," said South Brunswick
resident David Southgate, who opposes the highway.
Elizabeth Palius, chairwoman of the
Millstone Valley Preservation Coalition, called Route 92 "the highway
that goes no place."
"Why does this road magically stop at
Route 1?" Ms. Palius asked.
Cathy Dowgin, a South Brunswick
resident who has helped lead residents against Route 92, said the
average of four-and-a-half minutes off car trips shown in the EIS is a
bad reason to damage nature and that it could possibly worsen traffic
She talked about the absence of Route 522 in the EIS. She also said
that the highway would end at the narrowest part of Route 1 worsening
the existing traffic backups.
"Is four minutes really worth wasting
so much of our environment and wasting so much of our money?" Ms.