Locals use Web to battle Route 92

By: Sharlee DiMenichi , Staff Writer 04/24/2003
South Brunswick Post

Citizens group creates Web site protest

   A citizens group is urging foes of Route 92 to visit its new Web site for information about the planned roadway and e-mail links to those who may ultimately decide the proposal's fate — Gov. James McGreevey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

   The site, http://www.no92.com, describes Route 92 as the N.J. Turnpike Authority's proposed "6.7 mile private driveway for wealthy and powerful sprawl mongers."

   Proponents say the spur will reduce congestion on east-west roads between Route 1 and Route 130. The site offers e-mail links to the governor's office and the Corps, which is expected to release an assessment of the environmental impact of the 6.7-mile Turnpike extension in the coming months.

   Steve Masticola of the "No 92" coalition, who conceived and developed the site, said he hoped the e-mail links would help citizens express their opposition to the road. No 92 is a township citizens group opposed to the highway. Mr. Masticola said he also wanted the site to serve as an information clearinghouse.

   "The inspiration for it was really to put together a centralized place where people who are opposed to 92 and those who want to learn more about it can go," Mr. Masticola said.

   Those seeking to block construction of the spur, which would connect Route 1 with the Turnpike at Exit 8A, say they believe e-mails could influence the decision of Army Corps officials.

   "I do know that the Army Corps at one point said that they do care about the quantity of e-mails and the number of people who come out to hearings," said Cathy Dowgin, an anti-Route 92 activist from South Brunswick.

   Ms. Dowgin said she did not know how many people had visited the Web site, but that she and other organizers expected it to educate effectively "because it's available to most people and it's a good way to exchange information."

   The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting an environmental review of the proposed road because building Route 92 would require filling in wetlands. The federal Environmental Protection Agency opposed Route 92 in 1998 and announced it would not issue federal permits for the road; the state Department of Environmental Protection, however, issued permits for it in 1999. The Army Corps of Engineers is required to review the project because of the disagreement.

   Gov. McGreevey may allow the road to be built or stop the project by vetoing Turnpike Authority minutes that allocate funding for it, or by appointing commissioners who oppose it. The governor has not taken a position on the highway, saying he is waiting for the Army Corps to finish its review.

   A spokesperson for Gov. McGreevey said that mass e-mails on a particular topic could prompt the governor to relay citizens' concerns to the relevant commissioners, including those on the Turnpike Authority. The transportation commissioner is a voting member of the Turnpike Authority.

   "If there's a spike in any given area, that would be acknowledged," said Ellen Mellody, spokesperson for Gov. McGreevey.

   According to the Web site being run by opponents of the road, Route 92 would increase traffic on Route 1 and local roads, attract development and destroy open space.
   The Web site provides links to news articles, including those by the South Brunswick Post, on the proposed extension and to the home pages of other organizations fighting the project.

   The site also features a section of the state Department of Environmental Protection's BIG (Blueprint for Intelligent Growth) Map, which outlines Gov. McGreevey's plans to limit sprawling development. Route 92 falls into the red zone on the map, an area where DEP officials hope to halt development.

   "The red zone is supposed to mean no new roads; 92 is in clear violation," the site states.