Route 92 comment period ends

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Staff Writer, Trenton Times

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will move toward developing a final environmental impact statement on the proposed Route 92 after the public comment period on the draft statement closed at 5 p.m. yesterday.

The public comment period included a May 20 hearing on the long-proposed, much-disputed highway but people also could submit comments via e-mail and written statements.

Richard Tomer, chief of the corps' regulatory branch in New York, estimated the agency, which will decide whether to issue permits that will allow the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to build Route 92, received comments numbering "up in the hundreds." Tomer said many of those comments were e-mails containing the same text, similar to a form letter.

He said the comments received on the draft environmental impact statement released in April will be incorporated into the final statement, which would "take many months to do." No deadline has been set for finalizing the statement, Tomer said.

The draft statement didn't include a recommendation, but said Route 92, as proposed, would be the least disruptive way to ease Central New Jersey traffic congestion.

The Turnpike Authority proposes building Route 92 from Route 1 near Ridge Road in South Brunswick to Turnpike Exit 8A in Monroe.

Tomer said the final statement will address issues, note any changes in the Route 92 plan and recommend whether further analysis and study is needed.

The final statement will include another public comment period, lasting at least 30 days. A final decision will come at some point after the final statement is released, Tomer said.

Supporters argue the $400 million road would ease Route 1 congestion and provide a much-needed east-west traffic route. But critics contend the road would attract more vehicles to Route 1 and other local roads and destroy the environment.

The Turnpike Authority is seeking Army Corps approval to fill about 14 acres of wetlands to build the road. It has proposed creating 57 new acres of wetlands and preserving about 200 acres of forested wetlands.

The state Department of Environmental Protection in 1999 approved plans to fill the wetlands but the same plan was rejected by the Environmental Protection Agency, prompting the Army Corps review. The state permit expired earlier this year but the Turnpike Authority has said it will reapply.

The Turnpike Authority also needs approvals from the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission and the Freehold Soil Conservation District to build the highway.