NJ Turnpike Authority kills Route 92 plan

By: Joseph Harvie, The Packet Group
Princeton Packet, 12/05/2006

Officials in Princeton, West Windsor and Plainsboro decry decision

After years of debates, studies and engineering reports, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has officially canceled the proposed Route 92 project.

The Turnpike Authority, in a Dec. 1 letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection, said it has decided to shift its focus from the proposed 6.7-mile limited-access toll road, which would have linked the Turnpike in Monroe Township to Route 1 in South Brunswick, to a planned widening of the roadway between interchanges 6 and 9.

"Now that we are moving forward on the widening project — the largest expansion of the Turnpike since it was built over 50 years ago — we have decided to cancel the Route 92 project," Turnpike Executive Director Michael Lapolla said in the letter.

The letter was sent to the DEP to officially withdraw applications for wetlands and stream-crossing permits needed from the agency to allow the road to be built.

The decision to withdraw permit requests and cancel the project came a year after the Turnpike Authority shifted $175 million of the $181 million set aside for Route 92 to the widening project.

The Turnpike Authority did not formally announce the decision to scrap the Route 92 plan, and its decision came as a surprise to some. Reaction to the news was predictably mixed.

Former Princeton Borough Mayor and member of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton Marvin Reed said from Princeton's point of view, the news is disappointing.

Recalling an authorization from the Legislature in 1937 for a bypass from Somerville to Freehold, Mr. Reed explained that a much-needed east-west roadway to divert traffic from downtown Princeton has been on the state's agenda for nearly 70 years. But, he added, plans always seems to fall by the wayside.

Although Princeton was already disappointed when Route 92 was slated to end at Route 1, Mr. Reed said, many thought it could still relieve some traffic in the area.

"This is doubly disappointing," Mr. Reed said. "This is one more step in making promises and not fulfilling them."

Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand also said she was disappointed.

"S-92 would have been an east-west road that would help the region," Mayor Marchand said.

Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu called the decision to cancel the project "a mistake," adding, "We think it's a project that was important not just to my community, but to the region."

The Plainsboro mayor continued, "It came as a bit of a surprise. Our understanding from the state was that they had no plans to cancel the project. I'm very disappointed with the process that was followed (with) one hand telling us they did not have (the) intention to cancel the project."

Mayor Cantu said he found the decision particularly disturbing because the Route 1 corridor has been targeted for development, and Route 92 was a critical piece of the infrastructure that should have been put in place to support that development.

"It is what it is and we have to move on from here," Mayor Cantu said. "We're disappointed, and we think it's a decision that the state will regret."

West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh called the decision "kind of disappointing," noting that "to me (Route 92) is important for economic growth in this region."

Of future traffic options now that the Route 92 proposal has been shelved, Mayor Hsueh said, "I have to look at exactly what is the reason why the state rejected it before I can put anything forward."

South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese called the Turnpike Authority's decision good news. He said the end of Route 92 is a victory for the township.

"This is what we've been waiting for, for the past 14 years," Mayor Gambatese said.

Princeton Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman could not be reached for comment Monday.

Staff writers Courtney Gross and Molly Petrilla contributed to this story.

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