Princeton proposes talks on Rt. 92

By: Jennifer Potash and Joseph Harvie, The Packet Group     
South Brunswick Post, 10/14/2004

Princeton Borough opens idea of roundtable discussion with all towns affected by Route 92.

The Princeton Borough Council adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for a round-table discussion regarding the contested Route 92.

Route 92 has been proposed by the N.J. Turnpike Authority as an east-west connector between Turnpike Interchange 8A and Route 1 near Ridge Road in South Brunswick. The 6.7-mile limited-access toll road would be built and managed by the Turnpike Authority, and would cost an estimated $400 million.

The council did not back off from its past support of the proposed roadway but suggested a discussion process similar to the one used for the Penns Neck bypass that brought all the stakeholders together. Council members said that may yield better results for the Route 92 design.

South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said Wednesday afternoon he would be willing to attend a roundtable discussion with towns that would be affected by Route 92 and said he was happy to hear that Princeton Borough wants to discuss the road.

"This is a good first step. You couldn't get your point across to Princeton or Plainsboro or any other town because they are only looking at it from their vantage point," Mayor Gambatese said. "I am willing to attend any meeting I can, as long as I do not have a council meeting that conflicts and if I can't make it I will make sure someone can be there."

Friendship Road resident Cathy Dowgin of No 92, a group opposed to the road, said Wednesday she would attend a roundtable discussion and said anytime people from surrounding areas can discuss an issue it will move things in a positive direction.

Borough Councilman David Goldfarb said Tuesday that the public and all the interested parities would have greater opportunities to address concerns about Route 92 under the roundtable format.

Mayor Joseph O'Neill said a roundtable process is an informational one.

"And I see no reason why not to have more information," he said.

The governments of the borough, Princeton Township, West Windsor and Plainsboro have all expressed support for the Route 92 project. Governments in South Brunswick, Franklin, Montgomery, Hopewell Borough and Township, Hillsborough and Rocky Hill are opposed.

The Princeton Environmental Commission, which serves both the borough and Princeton Township, requested Princeton Borough and Township reconsider their support for Route 92 and asked that the two governing bodies call for the roundtable discussion.

Barbara Simpson, vice chairwoman of the joint Princeton Environmental Commission, said the federal Environmental Protection Agency has raised "significant concerns," including the filling in of wetlands and disturbing wildlife pathways, about the proposed Route 92 design.

Robert von Zumbusch, who lives in the Princeton Township portion of Kingston and represents the Delaware and Raritan Canal Coalition, said that while Route 92 will relieve traffic in Plainsboro, the road likely will dump truck traffic through Princeton by way of Harrison and Nassau streets.

"There is absolutely nothing Route 92 will do to help Princeton," he said.

Borough Councilwoman Wendy Benchley, who last year voted in favor of a resolution supporting the proposed alignment, said she now regrets her vote in light of the concerns raised by the EPA. She urged the council to send a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers expressing concern about the flaws of Route 92.

"We shouldn't just have some bland letter supporting a roundtable (discussion)," Ms. Benchley said. She later abstained from the council's vote to support a roundtable discussion.