Princeton Township backs plan for Route 92 roundtable
By: David Campbell, Staff Writer
Princeton Packet, 11/26/2004
But the council did not reverse its past support for the roadway.
Responding to a request by the
Princeton Environmental Commission, the Princeton Township Committee
backed a resolution Monday night calling for a community roundtable to
weigh alternatives to the long-delayed and controversial Route 92.
The committee voted 3-0 in support of
a mediated roundtable similar to the one that was created by the
state Department of Transportation to resolve differences over the
former Millstone Bypass, with
Committeeman William Hearon absent and Mayor Phyllis Marchand
Mayor Marchand said she was "uncomfortable" supporting a roundtable at
this time because a final environmental review of Route 92 has not yet
been issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The mayor also said an
east-west road such as the one being contemplated by the New Jersey
Turnpike Authority is very much needed in the region.
Committeewoman Casey Hegener said
findings already suggest the proposed roadway would bring harmful
environmental impacts and questioned what traffic benefits the road
"I personally believe there are a lot
of negative impacts," Ms. Hegener said, adding that further
analysis in a roundtable setting would be beneficial.
Deputy Mayor William Enslin said he was sympathetic with a roundtable
approach, and while he cast a supporting vote, like the mayor he
expressed concern about the timing of calling for one. He said he wants
the township's action to have maximum political impact, and questioned
whether that would be the case if the committee endorsed a roundtable
before the Army Corps' final environmental impact statement is issued.
Laura Lynch of the Sierra Club's New
Jersey chapter, who also addressed the committee Monday night, said the time to act is now, before a final
EIS is issued, when she said a final recommended alignment will
be unveiled with no further opportunity for public comment.
Ms. Lynch urged the committee to lend its support now, indicating that there are at least two groups prepared to
take legal action over Route 92, and said mediation in a
community-roundtable format is needed before lawsuits are filed. "The flaws in the (draft EIS) will lead to
litigation," she said.
She said it is not yet clear where funding for such a roundtable would
Although the committee's vote Monday night supported a roundtable, a
formal resolution has yet to be approved. The Princeton Borough Council
has already approved such a resolution. The council did not reverse its
past support for the proposed roadway, but suggested a discussion process similar to the one
formed to mediate differences over the former Millstone Bypass might
yield better results for the Route 92 design.
The borough and township have approved formal resolutions endorsing
Route 92. West Windsor and Plainsboro have also expressed support for
the roadway project.
On Monday night, environmental
commission member Rosemary Blair said she was "mystified" by borough
and township support for the road. She said the roadway would funnel traffic from the New
Jersey Turnpike into Princeton and neighboring Kingston, bringing "incredible traffic" to "already
Route 92 has been proposed by the Turnpike Authority as an east-west
connector between turnpike Interchange 8A and Route 1 near Ridge Road
in South Brunswick. The 6.7-mile toll road would be built and managed
by the Turnpike Authority, and would cost an estimated $400 million.
The Army Corps has been working on an environmental impact statement
for the roadway since 2000 because federal and state environmental
agencies disagreed over whether to issue permits for the filling of
wetlands required by the project. Conflict arose in 1999 after the
state Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit contrary
to recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Army Corps released its draft EIS to the public in April. A public
hearing on the document was held in May during which opponents of the
road vastly outnumbered those who spoke in favor of it. The majority of
the attendees were South Brunswick residents worried about traffic
impacts to their community.
In support of its case, the Environmental Commission points to a letter
submitted by the EPA in July as part of the public comment on the Army
Corps' draft document that claims all reasonable alternatives have not
been fully evaluated. The EPA letter
says there is a potential for "significant environmental impacts" from
the limited-access toll road, suggesting that, contrary to the corps' conclusions, Route
92 would result in increased traffic congestion.
Environmental commission members have
said the new Route 522, if a connection to the turnpike were to be
built, could serve as an alternative to Route 92, and should be
considered as an alternative.