Route 92 money diverted to widening turnpike
By: Emily Craighead and Joseph Harvie, The Packet Group
Princeton Packet, 12/02/2005
Opponents cheer and
advocates deny move is a setback
Opponents of Route 92 may be cheering,
but supporters say the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's decision to use
most of the money set aside for Route 92 to widen the Turnpike in
Central Jersey is just a business decision.
The authority on Tuesday said it will
take about $175 million of the $181.5 million set aside for the
proposed Turnpike spur and use it for the widening project, said
Joe Orlando, spokesman for the authority. The authority borrowed that
money five years ago, and terms of that loan required that the money be
spent sooner than the Route 92 project would have began.
The authority plans to add new lanes in both directions between
Interchanges 6 and 8A.
"It looks like it's not a dead issue,"
West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said. "Since the money was just
sitting there, they might as well use it for a higher-priority project."
The authority still plans to move
forward with Route 92 — a proposed 6.7-mile toll road connecting
Route 1 near Ridge Road to Interchange 8A — once federal environmental
permits are issued, according to Mr. Orlando. There is still $6.5
million set aside for the project.
The money is being shifted because the widening project was more
urgent, the terms of the loan required the money be spent, and Route 92
does not have an anticipated start date, officials said.
The highway has been opposed by South
Brunswick, Franklin, Montgomery, Rocky Hill, Hillsborough and Hopewell
Township and Hopewell Borough. Princeton Township, Princeton
Borough, Cranbury, West Windsor and Plainsboro are all on record
supporting its construction.
South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said the decision to reallocate the money is a
"huge" step toward getting the road off the books. The township
and an organized group of residents have been fighting the road for
more than 10 years.
In neighboring Plainsboro, Mayor Peter Cantu said the news was "not
"At this point in time, it is obvious
there is a need for funding for widening the southern part of the
Turnpike," he said.
Princeton Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman said she would still support
Route 92, depending on its alignment.
"There are still benefits depending on how it's developed," Mayor
Trotman said. "If it doesn't do
something to relieve traffic in the Princetons, I might not be so happy
to see it."
Mayor Cantu said his next step would be to reach out to the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to ask for the release of the final environmental
impact statement. The Army Corps released a draft version of the EIS in
The authority has been working on Route 92 since 1991, when the state
Legislature approved a measure transferring responsibility for the road
from the state Department of Transportation. It approved the alignment
in the mid-1990s, but has not received federal environmental approval.
The state Department of Environmental Protection issued permits in
1998, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency balked, sending
the project to the Army Corps of Engineers.
The project is essential to moving traffic off local roads, according
to Dianne Brake, president of the Regional Planning Partnership, a
nonprofit smart-growth research organization advocating better land-use
planning and regional cooperation.
"We hope that when the new administration looks at this, that the need
for an east-west connector is so important that they would not be able
to ignore it," she said.
The need for an east-west connector is heightened, according to Mayor
Hsueh, by the University Medical Center at Princeton's decision to move
the hospital to Route 1 in Plainsboro.
"I really feel we need to start looking into traffic on a regional
level," he said.
Assemblyman Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton),
whose 14th Assembly District includes West Windsor, Plainsboro and
South Brunswick, said he was pleased with the authority's decision. He
and state Sen. Peter Inverso (R-Hamilton) had called on acting Gov.
Richard Codey to reallocate the money after the acting governor
announced the widening plan in December 2004.
"One of my biggest objectives when I
took office was to stop Route 92," Assemblyman Baroni said. "I think
this goes a long way to preserving the critical environmental areas in
Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein
(D-Plainsboro), who also represents the 14th District, said moving the cash will allow the
Turnpike widening to take place at the same time the Pennsylvania
Turnpike is being expanded. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is being
extended to meet with New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 6 and is expected
to be completed in 2011.
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