It's the end of the road for Route 92

Turnpike Authority cancels all plans for proposed highway

Staff Writer
North-South Brunswick Sentinel, December 7, 2007

Expired, terminated, inert, deceased, perished, passed on, lifeless, belly up, dead. These terms and more describe the current status of the controversial Route 92 project.

In a letter dated Dec. 1, Michael Lapolla, executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, asked Lisa Jackson, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, to consider all applications for the Route 92 project withdrawn.

"We have decided to cancel the Route 92 project," Lapolla said in the letter.

The announcement comes as the authority prepares to move forward on a massive turnpike-widening project, to which most of Route 92's funds were reallocated in November 2005.

The Route 92 project would have built a 6.7-mile toll road from exit 8A of the turnpike to Route 1 near Kingston. The project would have cost around $400 million and was opposed by certain groups because it would have filled 12 to 14 acres of wetlands. There were also concerns that Route 92 would increase sprawl and contribute to pollution.

Some towns, especially Princeton, however, have been vocal supporters of the road, much to the annoyance of South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese.

In November 2005, the project received a crippling blow when $175 million was taken out of its funding and was devoted instead toward the widening of the New Jersey Turnpike, which many at the time interpreted as the project's overall demise.

Despite this loss, in November the Army Corps of Engineers, which heavily supported the project, released what it called a final environmental impact study. Seeing this as a move for Route 92 to rise again, many area municipalities, including South Brunswick, swiftly sprung into action, seeking to deal the crippled project a final death blow. The road's ultimate demise was met with approval by a jubilant South Brunswick Township Council.

"I'd like to commend Mr. Lapolla in his recognition that there are better things to do with their money, like widening the turnpike," said Councilman Chris Killmurray.

According to Gambatese, the township will now seek to have the land that was set aside by the state for Route 92 returned to the township. This includes Friendship Road, a section of Route 27 and a section of Route 1. During the council's Tuesday meeting, Gambatese and former Mayor Howard Bellizio discussed possibly using some of the land for open space. Regardless of what it would be used for, Gambatese hopes that the land will be returned to the township soon.

"Anything they have purchased, or paid an easement price for, [should] be turned over to the township. ... We will now follow up, now that we have confirmation that they're not going to build it," said Gambatese.

Gambatese also said that the township will continue to aggressively pursue improvements to Route 1.

South Brunswick has long promoted the construction of 522-1A as an alternative to Route 92. The road, the funds for which were bonded in December 2005, will run from the intersection of routes 522 and 130, through a section of warehouses, and reconnect with Ridge Road just west of the turnpike. It will cost around $8 million.