Route 92 opposition heartened by state's anti-sprawl
Star-Ledger, Wednesday, January 22, 2003
When Cathy Dowgin saw red, she was
At last, Dowgin thought, her fight to kill Route 92 was in the
home stretch. All of the land needed in South
Brunswick to build the road
to connect the New Jersey Turnpike to Route 1 is in
red on the state's new land-use map, denoting restricted
Gov. James E. McGreevey last week unveiled the map, which
shows areas of New Jersey where officials want to discourage
including construction of new roads that open up rural areas to
The $300 million [sic] road has been tied up by the Army Corps
of Engineers, which is awaiting the results of an environmental assessment. The
assessment will determine whether the corps will grant a permit to fill in 14
acres of freshwater wetlands. Without the permit, the New Jersey Turnpike
Authority cannot start construction.
A spokeswoman for the state
Department of Transportation said she could not comment on how the state's new
development map will affect
"We're going to wait for the EIS
(environmental impact statement) results before we go any further," said the
spokeswoman, Ann Farneski.
"We need to see what it says before we decide what
to do about the road."
The Army Corps ordered the Turnpike Authority in
2000 to perform the environmental study after the federal Environmental
Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection split on
whether to go forward and grant the permits.
The EPA opposed the project because it would destroy
the wetlands and there were less environmentally damaging alternatives.
The DEP granted the state permit, but without the federal one, the project can't
The 6.7-mile toll road would connect Interchange 8A of the
Turnpike with Route 1 at Ridge Road, traversing through farmland and
areas. There would be no exits onto local roads, only one at each
The idea to build an east-west road that connected Route 1, the
Turnpike, Route 27 and Route 206 through southern Middlesex County,
Mercer and southeastern Somerset counties has been around for more than 40 years
and has been studied by more than a dozen agencies and consultants.
1992, the Legislature gave the project to the Turnpike Authority, hoping to get
it off the back burner and into the hands of construction
Instead, the project has become bogged down in the permit
process. The various alignment changes made to appease one town or another
also added delay.
The original alignment, unveiled in 1994, would
have taken the road through northern Plainsboro and Princeton, but opposition
residents and officials in those towns forced the Turnpike Authority to
reroute the road north through South Brunswick, which created a
that town's officials and residents.
Supporters, including the Middlesex
County freeholders and Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu, argue the road is needed to
divert trucks from
local roads and provide a safe east-west route for all of
the truck traffic that has increased with construction of all of the nearby
industrial parks and warehouses.
Opponents say the road will not lessen
traffic on local roads, only destroy local farms and open space and endanger the
historic village of Kingston, which is near the road's terminus.
our position that Route 92 has always been a violation of state and local
land-use plans," said Janine Bauer, executive director of
Transportation Campaign, an activist organization that advocates the use of mass
transit over construction of highways.
"We're confident in the end the area
that is earmarked for Route 92, now designated open space and farmland, will be
open space and farmland and that Route 92 will be dead."
The first draft
of the environmental study is due out this spring, but Dowgin said she would be
"very happy" if someone in the state --
either the transportation
commissioner or the governor -- would kill the project.
"My daughter was
9 years old when we started this fight and she's now a freshman in college," she
said. "I really think in light of the
governor's plans to
fight sprawl, it would be really difficult to push for this road, especially
when it violates their own plan."
Epstein covers Middlesex County. She can be reached at sep
firstname.lastname@example.org or (732) 634-6482.