No movement on anti-92 bill
By: Matthew Kirdahy , Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 05/06/2004
Assembly committee has no timetable for legislation
The Assembly Transportation Committee
is not likely to hear a bill that could strip the N.J. Turnpike
Authority of its authorization to build Route 92 until at least
Assemblyman Upendra Chivakula, a
Democrat who represents Franklin and is a member of the Assembly
committee that would review the legislation, said Wednesday that it is
not likely that the bill could be placed on an agenda before the fall.
The bill was introduced in January by Assemblyman Bill Baroni, a
Republican whose district includes South Brunswick. A Senate version
was introduced by state Sen. Peter Inverso, a Republican who represents
the same district.
The bill would remove the authority to build the proposed 6.7-mile toll
road. The Legislature had transferred authority for the highway to the
Turnpike in 1991.
Mr. Chivakula said Wednesday that the Assembly Transportation Committee
would be involved with discussions of the proposed state budget for the
next two months and the Legislature will be on recess in July and
Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski, a Democrat
who represents the northeastern portion of Middlesex County, said in
February that he would not schedule a hearing on the proposed
legislation until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its
Environmental Impact Statement on the road. The Army Corps, which is
reviewing the project because state and federal regulators could not
agree on whether environmental permits should be issued, released a
draft of its EIS on April 21.
Mr. Wisniewski did not return repeated
phone calls or e-mail from the Post.
Mr. Baroni sent a letter to the committee chairman on April 26 asking
that the bill be placed on an agenda.
"He said we should wait," Mr. Baroni
said in an April 28 interview. "Well, it's out."
Mr. Baroni had not received a response
as of Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the assemblyman.
Mr. Baroni said in an April 28 press
release that he would bring district residents to testify that Route 92
is "the wrong road, in the wrong place, at the wrong time." Mr. Baroni
said he reviewed the full DEIS and said that the destruction of
wetlands, parklands and farmlands is enough proof that should clearly
show Route 92 shouldn't be built.
Mr. Baroni said in the release that
the promised traffic relief was not likely to follow.
"While supporters of Route 92 claim
miraculous traffic reductions, the facts bear to significant failure
for the people of Central New Jersey," Mr. Baroni said.
If Mr. Baroni's bill is approved by the Transportation Committee, it
would then move to the full Assembly. If approved by the Assembly and
the Senate version of the bill is also approved, they would go to the
governor for his signature.
Steve Cook, Sen. Inverso's chief of
staff, said the senator supports Mr. Baroni's legislation and will
attend the public hearing with a more detailed opinion of the DEIS once
he has completely reviewed it.
"We're still in the process of reviewing the EIS," Mr. Cook said. "The
more time we take to review this the more impact our comments will have
on the process."
Mr. Cook also said that the senator plans to meet with South Brunswick
residents and officials in the interim to get feedback from the
township. Sen. Inverso has been a
strong supporter of a Bus Rapid Transit to alleviate traffic as an
alternative to Route 92.
Assemblyman Chivakula, who is opposed
to Route 92, said he would review Mr. Baroni's bill but is not taking a
position on it. He said he has
some concerns about the draft of the EIS and thinks the Army Corps
should expand the study area to part of Somerset County to get a more
accurate assessment of traffic.
Mr. Chivakula also said the study
needs to address the impact of the wetlands in greater depth.
"Do we really have the infrastructure
to handle this type of traffic?" Mr. Chivakula said. "I don't
think we have it, but there is a need for an east-west connector. We all have traffic problems and is Route
92 is right way to go? I don't know. Unless they expand study area,
then we have partial information."
Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, a Democrat who represents South
Brunswick, said Friday that she wanted to review the Army Corps study
before making any comments.
"We haven't had updated information on this in such a long time, so
it's important to take a look of what's here," Ms. Greenstein said. "It sounds like they
are showing the benefits to the road."
Mr. Baroni, however, has made his mind
"After reading the Draft Environmental
Impact Study, I am more convinced than ever that Route 92 is wrong for
the people of South Brunswick and central New Jersey," Mr. Baroni said
in his release. "I'm going to continue to fight every day to stop this
environmental, transportation nightmare from being built."