Rt. 92 foes stand firm

Thursday, April 01, 2004
Staff Writer
Trenton Times

Kingston is a 17th century village with connections to nearly every major era in American history.

It was a key crossroads during the American Revolution. With the Delaware & Raritan Canal, it played a role in the Industrial Revolution. It has survived post-World War II development.

Yet some worry Kingston's days as a historic village are numbered.

"Kingston will be absolutely devastated," said Anne Zeman, a village resident who joined about a dozen politicians and citizens in South Brunswick yesterday to rally against the proposed Route 92.

The long-proposed highway would be constructed through South Brunswick and connect Route 1, near Ridge Road and Kingston, and the New Jersey Turnpike, at Exit 8A in Monroe. The state permit issued in 1999 to allow about 14 acres of wetlands to be filled to build the highway expired on Monday, giving hope to opponents who have argued the road will increase traffic on Route 1 and other area roads and ruin the environment.

But on Tuesday the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which would build and manage the road as a Turnpike spur, said it will reapply for the state permit once it revises its plans to comply with new stormwater management regulations.

Also, the Army Corps of Engineers is continuing to devise a draft environmental impact statement on the project. The plan would be used to help decide whether to grant federal approvals for the work. The report is expected to be released toward the end of April.

In 1998, the federal Environmental Protection Agency rejected Route 92, but the state Department of Environmental Protection approved the permits the next year and the project was sent to the Army Corps to help resolve the dispute.

The DEP has said it will wait to see the Army Corps report before deciding whether to reapprove the permit.

While enthused about the expired permits at yesterday's news conference organized by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Route 92 opponents vowed to remain vigilant.

"This doesn't mean that this thing is over by any shape or form, but at least what it does is require another step," South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said.

Route 92 supporters contend the road will reduce Route 1 congestion by providing a key east-west link to the Turnpike and promote economic development in its corridor. Yesterday, Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu, a longtime Route 92 proponent, said he's not concerned about the permit expiration because the Turnpike plans to reapply.

He said opponents asked for an environmental impact statement and should await its completion.

"The process ought to be respected and we're confident the environmental impact statement will find on balance that this roadway provides a net benefit for the region," Cantu said.

Feelings were different in South Brunswick yesterday.

Franklin Councilwoman Shirley Eberle said the state shouldn't be spending money on unneeded roads. Hopewell Township Mayor Vanessa Sandom worried Route 92 would flood roads such as Routes 31 and 518 with connecting traffic.

"This is the wrong road in the wrong place at the wrong time," Assemblyman Bill Baroni, R-Hamilton, said. "It does not benefit Central Jersey."