GOP Assembly members call for hearing on Route 92 bill

By: Matthew Kirdahy , Staff Writer    
South Brunswick Post, 05/13/2004

Legislation would repeal 1991 law that authorized Turnpike Authority to construct four-lane Turnpike spur.

The four Republican members of the Assembly Transportation Committee are calling on its chairman to schedule a hearing on a bill designed to kill Route 92.

Assemblyman Bill Baroni, a Republican representing South Brunswick, introduced legislation in January that would repeal a 1991 law that authorized the Turnpike Authority to construct the four-lane Turnpike spur.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of the Transportation Committee, had said in January that he would not schedule a hearing on the bill until after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its Environmental Impact Statement on the road. The Army Corps is reviewing the Turnpike Authority's application for environmental permits because state and federal regulators could not agree on whether they should be issued.

The Army Corps released a draft Environmental Impact Study on the highway, which would link the N.J. Turnpike at Exit 8A with Route 1 at Ridge Road, in April and will host a public hearing on the study May 20 at the Raddisson Hotel on Route 1 in South Brunswick.

Mr. Wisniewski has not returned calls placed to his office during the last two weeks.

Mr. Baroni said Mr. Wisniewski told him there would be no hearing on his bill and Mr. Baroni approached the four Republicans on the committee — Peter Biondi (Somerset), Francis Bodine (Burlington), John Gibson (Cape May) and Kevin O'Toole (Passaic).

"We need to do everything we can to allow South Brunswick and the rest of the region to talk about this road," Mr. Baroni said Wednesday. "The Legislature should not hide behind the Army Corps process. This is a bad road and we have been elected to represent the people of New Jersey."

The four sent letters on Monday to Mr. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) asking that the bill, A-1957, be reviewed. Each of the four Assembly members sent the same letter.

"This legislation has been in the Assembly for a number of years," the letter says, referring to an earlier version of the bill introduced in 2000 by former Assemblyman Gary Guear. "The Army Corps of Engineers have recently released their Environmental Impact Statement, and I believe now is the perfect time to allow the residents of the towns affected by this road to testify before the committee."

Aides to the committee Republicans said Wednesday that the bill needed a hearing.

"Let's air it out," said Tom Suthart, spokesman for Assemblyman Gibson. "(The bill) deserves a fair hearing. That's really what this is about, so that the committee can debate merits of bill."

Glen Beebee, spokesman for Mr. Bodine, said he wanted hearings on the bill so the public can comment.

"The assemblyman, as a ranking minority member on the committee, is very supportive of bringing issues like this out to the public, so we can here what the public really wants done," Mr. Beebee said.

Assemblyman Upendra Chivakula, a Democrat from Franklin and a member of the Transportation Committee, said last week he would review Mr. Baroni's bill but did not plan on taking a position on it. He is opposed to Route 92. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.