Emergency responders raise concerns

By Matthew Kirdahy
South Brunswick Post, May 27, 2004

Township police officers and firefighters say Route 92 would make traffic worse and delay emergency response time.

Though the Army Corps of Engineers' Environmental Impact Statement says Route 92 will alleviate some regional traffic, Police Chief Michael Paquette and Kingston Kingston Fire Company President David Luck said that since the proposed highway would end at the intersection of Route 1 and Ridge Road, increased traffic would cause more accidents and block fire trucks and cruisers reporting to an emergency.

The Army Corps of Engineers hosted a public hearing May 20 to discuss a draft EIS on Route 92 at the Radisson on Route 1. Chief Paquette and David Mr. Luck spoke both spoke at the hearing. Kingston Fire Chief George Luck was interviewed later. The hearing was part of a public comment period that ends June 14.

The EIS says that though Route 92 would be under the jurisdiction of the state police, local fire companies and rescue squads would provide services on the 6.7-mile toll road. The road would run from the N.J. Turnpike at Exit 8A to the narrowest part of Route 1 in the township, Chief Paquette said.

The EIS is being conducted by the Army Corps to determine whether it should issue environmental permits to the N.J. Turnpike Authority to build the road. The Army Corps will publish a final draft after feedback from the public hearing is transcribed and evaluated.

What the chief and fire president couldn't understand, is how the EIS can report that Route 92 will bring 12,000 to 15,000 additional cars to Route 1, but won't cause major traffic disturbances.

Fire Company President David Luck said it's difficult in District 3 at times for firetrucks and volunteer firefighters to get to the station in enough time to report to the emergency. Route 92, he said, would only make it worse.

Kingston Fire Company District 3 covers the area from Route 27 at the Princeton border up to Old Road and including the east side of Route 1 to Ridge and Perrine roads. Route 1 is covered from south of Independence Way to the Route 522 jug handle.

Chief George Luck said volunteer firefighters get about 20 emergency calls a month, or 240 a year, including residential, commercial and industrial and roadway. He said emergency calls would likely increase if Route 92 gets built, which could also mean an increased demand for volunteers.

"We're concerned as far as the amount of traffic it will bring to the district and the increased delay in response time," Chief George Luck said.

At the hearing, Chief Paquette challenged the panel of Army Corps representatives, Koko Cronin, Lt. Col. Kurt Hoffman and attorney James Palmer, to look outside the Radisson front door around 5 p.m. and look at the traffic backed up on Route 1 at Ridge Road, a perennial problem for motorists.

According to the Army Corps' draft EIS, "Route 92 would not increase the burden on local police departments and could reduce that burden by reducing traffic and traffic-related incidents on roads for which the local police are responsible."

"I don't understand how when they say 12,000 to15,000 more cars can be accommodated by Route 92 where it can't impact South Brunswick," Chief Paquette said.

He said that the township is in the "throat of the hourglass" when it comes to Route 1. Route 1 in South Brunswick has four lanes, where its neighbors to the north and south, North Brunswick and Plainsboro, have six lanes.

"We need to find an option that's viable," the Chief Paquette said. "Route 522 accomplishes everything that Route 92 would do. The benefits of this highway do not outweigh the negatives. This highway is a formula for regionalized gridlock."