Route 92 gets key support; opponents furious

Published in the Home News Tribune 4/23/04



SOUTH BRUNSWICK: Kingston resident Steve Masticola calls it a "greenwashing."

That's what he believes the Army Corps of Engineers did to minimize the environmental impact in its long-awaited report on Route 92.

The draft Environmental Impact Statement, released this week, supports widening Route 1 along with a proposal by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to construct a 6.7-mile toll road that would link Route 1 at Ridge Road with Interchange 8A.

"This is very, very bad news," Masticola said. "The Army Corps has developed some kind of novel math where adding roads decreases traffic. We're going to take every avenue we can to get this defeated."

Proponents say that Route 92 would relieve a heavily traveled, rapidly developing area that needs east-west access and an easier route to and from the Turnpike.

Critics argue that corporate neighbors would see the most benefit from the road, while additional traffic will be funneled through the historic village of Kingston, hundreds of acres of farmland will be ruined, and the cost -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- outweighs any benefits.

A public hearing on the environmental document will be held May 20 at the Radisson Hotel on Route 1 in Plainsboro.

Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu, who has long supported building Route 92, said he is looking forward to the hearing.

"Frankly, the content of the EIS seems to support the positions we've taken all along from a standpoint of need and alignment," Cantu said. "The preferred alternative is the one we've been supportive of. It's a very positive report from our perspective."

Not exactly, said South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese.

"I don't believe the EIS warrants issuing a permit to build that road or spending $450 million on a 6.7-mile road," he said.

A plan that would widen Route 1 in South Brunswick and build Route 92 would pose the least disruption from an environmental perspective while meeting the project's purpose, according to the report. It acknowledged that the proposal would displace approximately 210 acres of farmland and interfere with access to an additional 78 acres.

The study recommended restricting truck traffic and enacting traffic-calming measures on Heathcote Road in Kingston to reduce the impact on the village's local roads.

A spokesman for Gov. James E. McGreevey said the draft EIS is under review.

"Obviously we recognize the need for congestion relief and for satisfying the environmental concerns, both of which have been well established," said spokesman Micah Rasmussen.

Diane Brake, who presides over the Princeton-based Regional Planning Partnership, said her organization has not taken a position on the alignment, but feels that Route 92 should be built. She pointed to steps that Plainsboro took in anticipation of Route 92 -- containing development in one part of the town, preserving land through open-space acquisitions.

"This is the kind of planning that local government can control to make sure that a new highway project can do what it's meant to do, which is to take regional traffic off local roads and not induce unwanted and unplanned development."

South Brunswick resident Cathy Dowgin said she believes that County Road 522 solves the region's problems more efficiently.

Next month's hearing will be held in the Princeton Ballroom starting at 2 p.m. It will break at 5 p.m. and reconvene at 7 p.m., then close at midnight.

The draft EIS is available for public review at the South Brunswick and Plainsboro public libraries and the Monroe Township Municipal Building.

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