Rt. 92 money shifts to Pike
Trenton Times, Wednesday, November 30, 2005
By TOM HESTER JR.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority
yesterday took $175 million intended for the long-proposed,
much-opposed Route 92 construction and reappropriated it for use in
widening the Turnpike from Middlesex County to Burlington County,
a move hailed as a victory by Route 92 opponents.
Turnpike officials insisted the
proposed Route 92 - an east-west Turnpike extension that would
connect Route 1 in South Brunswick with the Turnpike in Monroe - remains alive.
But the proposed six-lane highway now has just $6.5 million dedicated
to it, and the Turnpike Authority has
no imminent plans to move forward on the project.
"I'm extremely pleased with this,"
said South Brunswick resident Cathy Dowgin, a longtime Route 92 foe. "Obviously, I think it's been a long time
Turnpike spokesman Joe Orlando said the Turnpike widening simply takes
precedence over Route 92, a roadway proposed in various forms for
several decades amid fierce opposition from South Brunswick and
"The priority of the authority at this point is the widening of the
Turnpike," Orlando said.
South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said he would have preferred all the Route 92 money
be shifted toward Turnpike widening but said the township was pleased.
Officials there have worried that Route 92 would flood the township,
especially Route 1, with increased traffic.
"It shows a small little town, if it
stands up for its rights, can stand up and be victorious,"
Jeff Tittel, executive director of the state Sierra Club, which was
concerned about, among other things, Route 92 destroying wetlands,
praised the decision.
"Route 92 is the worst sprawl-inducing
project in New Jersey, so pulling the funding is a positive step," Tittel
said. "I also think it means 92 is
dead for at least the foreseeable future."
Assemblyman Bill Baroni, R-Hamilton, another Route 92 foe, hailed
the decision. "This goes a long way
to stopping that road," Baroni said.
Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey announced plans to widen the Turnpike
almost a year ago. At an estimated cost of $1.3 billion, the widening
will rank among the most expensive transportation projects in state
Plans are to widen the toll road from Exit 8A in Monroe to Exit 6 in
Mansfield. Exit 8A is where the Turnpike's two truck lanes and three
car lanes narrow into a single three-lane highway, often causing severe
Codey's plan calls for extending the separate car and truck lanes for
20 miles, from where they end near Exit 8A through Mercer County to
Exit 6 in Burlington County.
That Turnpike section is expected to see increased traffic when
Interstate 95 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike are linked in Bucks County,
Pa. The Pennsylvania Turnpike project is expected to take almost 15
years to complete and will involve an additional Delaware River bridge
linking the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes.
Orlando said the $175 million will go toward the Turnpike widening's
first expenses, which he said would likely involve preliminary
engineering and the completion of an environmental impact statement by
the end of 2006.
Final design is expected to be completed in 2009, with the new Turnpike
lanes open in 2013.
While the project is expected to cost $1.3 billion, Turnpike officials
note that is a preliminary estimate and caution that the project's
scope hasn't been finalized. A more accurate cost estimate is expected
in spring 2006.
NOTE: Contact State House bureau chief Tom Hester Jr. at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at (609) 777-4464.