Route 92 plan loses funding

Money gets shifted to widen turnpike

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 11/30/05

TRENTON — Highway officials took away almost all of the money set aside for the controversial Route 92 project Tuesday and shifted the funds to plans for widening the New Jersey Turnpike.

The move by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority deals a blow to Route 92, the oft-criticized plan for an east-west road across southern Middlesex County.

The authority took $175 million set aside for Route 92 and instead will use it on plans to widen the turnpike between exits 6 and 8A. That leaves just $6.5 million for Route 92, which is expected to cost $450 million.

"It basically kills Route 92," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter, which opposed the plan.

Turnpike officials, however, said Route 92 could go forward at some point in the future. The state would have to borrow to pay for it.

"This is not being done to kill the project as much as it is being done to prioritize the turnpike widening," said authority spokesman Joseph Orlando. "The turnpike widening project is a major initiative. It is our top priority right now."

He said the money has been sitting unused for five years as the state tries to get environmental permits for Route 92, which would be a 6.7-mile road connecting the turnpike and Route 1.

The turnpike plans call for widening the highway between exit 6 in Burlington County and exit 8A in Middlesex County, where traffic often backs up as truck and car lanes merge. It is expected to cost $1.2 billion, and authority Executive Director Michael Lapolla hopes construction can begin in 2008 and conclude in 2013.

Route 92 proponents, including Middlesex County planning officials, have said the new road is needed to ease congestion in a fast-developing part of the county. Although there are many north-south highways, local or county roads have to handle east-west traffic, said George Ververides, Middlesex County planning director.