Mayors: Let Route 92 expire

By: Matthew Kirdahy, Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 04/01/2004

Department of Environmental Protection lets state permits lapse.

Opponents of Route 92 had cause for celebration this week.

While the possible approval and construction of the N.J. Turnpike spur are still some time away, residents and officials from South Brunswick, Hopewell Township, Montgomery and Franklin were pleased to hear that permits needed to build the highway expired Monday.

However, the permits, issued to the N.J. Turnpike Authority by the state Department of Environmental Protection in 1999, could be reissued after the Turnpike Authority applies.

Permits are needed because building the proposed 6.7-mile limited access toll road would involve filling wetlands

To issue new permits, the DEP would have to accept comments from the public and would likely hold public hearings, said DEP spokeswomen Mary Helen Cervantes

Route 92 is a proposed limited access toll road that would connect the N.J. Turnpike at Exit 8A with Route 1 at Ridge Road. South Brunswick is opposed to the proposed Route 92.

Local officials and area residents opposing Route 92 gathered in the South Brunswick Municipal Building Wednesday to celebrate the expiration of state permits.

However, they promised to keep fighting the proposal.

South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said the township and other municipalities that would be affected by Route 92 remain "vigilant" and that they want to make sure Route 92 is never built.

"We're happy with what we've seen," Mayor Gambatese said about the permit expiration. "That doesn't mean it's over. We're happily hoping that (the proposed plan) dies. This fight is just really beginning. If we stay vigilant, we can end this in a successful manner."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a review of the road because federal and state environmental agencies disagree over whether permits should be issued for the filling of wetlands, said Koko Cronin, project manager for the Army Corps

The Army Corps will continue its review.

Ms. Cronin said the EIS is still in its preliminary draft phase.

"We're working on a schedule for when we're going to release the report," Ms. Cronin said. "Then there will be a public notice. The public notice that goes out will also be a notice of availability, saying that this report is ready to be viewed. The report is in its preliminary draft EIS phase. It's not until it's released that it becomes a draft."

Republican Assemblyman Bill Baroni, who also was present at Wednesday's press conference, said Route 92 is the "wrong road at the wrong time."

"Keep up the pressure on the Legislature. Keep up the effort to stop this road because there is no upside to this road," Mr. Baroni said.

Vanessa Sandom, mayor of Hopewell Township, and Shirley Eberle, a Franklin councilwoman, were also at the press conference.

"I hope that the expiration of this permit will mean a very quick and natural death to Route 92," Ms. Sandom said. "We hope that research and common sense will prevail in New Jersey government."

South Brunswick resident Mary Kapsidelis, who lives near Friendship Road, said Route 92 is a "boondoggle."

"It should've been kicked out 30 years ago," Ms. Kapsidelis said. "The tax dollars we would spend there could go to widening Route 1."

Ms. Cervantes said she expects the Turnpike Authority to reapply for the permits.

"They will reapply and we will review their application once we receive it," Ms. Cervantes said. "It's been made clear that they would modify the application to incorporate the new storm water regulations recently implemented Jan. 5. They haven't submitted the application yet."

Turnpike officials did not return calls by press time.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency refused to issue permits in 1998, saying there were less environmentally disruptive alternatives to the road, while the state DEP issued permits in 1999.