Gov. asked to use 92 cash for turnpike

By: Joseph Harvie, Staff Writer    
South Brunswick Post, 12/09/2004

Officials say Route 92 not needed, save funding for turnpike widening.

State Sen. Peter Inverso and State Assemblyman Bill Baroni sent a joint letter Tuesday to Gov. Richard Codey urging him to use funding for Route 92 on the recently announced N.J. Turnpike expansion project.

Gov. Codey announced on Dec. 1 that he was going to extend the "car only" and "truck and car" lanes from on the N.J. Turnpike for 20.1 miles from Exit 8A to Exit 6. The governor said he hopes to have the project completed by 2011 when the Pennsylvania Turnpike is expected to complete an interchange with the N.J. Turnpike.

In the letter, Sen. Inverso and Mr. Baroni, both Republicans from District 14 which includes South Brunswick, thanked the governor for advocating the widening of the turnpike.

They said the project would ease the traffic on the turnpike at Exit 8A and would help alleviate truck traffic on U.S. Route 1.

They also urged the governor to use money earmarked for Route 92 to pay for the project. Doing that, they said, could eliminate the need to increase tolls on the turnpike.

"Our commuters are already paying enough in tolls and the construction resulting from this expansion will create delays and inconveniences for many drivers. A large increase in tolls would be an unfair addition to a tough commute," the letter said.

Mr. Baroni and Sen. Inverso also said that Route 92, a proposed 6.7-mile toll road that would run from Turnpike Exit 8A to the intersection of Route 1, would not alleviate traffic in the area and would destroy wetlands and some of the last open space in Middlesex County.

Mr. Baroni and South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said more than $270 million has been set aside for Route 92.

"Route 92 will not alleviate traffic. In fact, studies have shown that thousands of additional vehicles will use Route 1. We've talked with school bus drivers who dread driving across Route 1 and parents who fear crossing the highway when taking their kids to soccer practice," the letter stated.

Mayor Gambatese said Tuesday night that the township is compiling information to send to Gov. Codey that officials hope will prove that Route 92 is not needed and the funding for the project could be used to help other transportation projects in the area.

"We are setting up a packet to send down to him that will ask him to take the money set aside for Route 92 and really use that money to widen Route 1 and we will extend 522 and the turnpike gets widened," Mayor Gambatese said. "Hopefully this will put Route 92 away for a long time."

Mayor Gambatese said he also would like Gov. Codey hold a forum to discuss alternatives to Route 92.

The plan to widen the turnpike has local officials and activist groups hoping that the funds for Route 92 could be used to get the expansion project off the ground, killing Route 92.

The governor said last week that the widening is needed because of anticipated growth in the area, and because of Pennsylvania's plan to link to the turnpike.

"If we don't act, over the next several years traffic growth in New Jersey, combined with a planned project in Pennsylvania to add full-access interchange between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the N.J. Turnpike, will cause virtual gridlock," Gov. Codey said.

According to a press release issued last week from the Governor's Office, the expansion could take seven to 10 years to complete. In addition, the first step of the project would require an 18-month study to determine a timeline for the project, according to the release.

A state transportation official said Nov. 30 the Turnpike Authority would pay for the study, which would cost between $8 million and $10 million.