Rt. 92 roundtable gains support
By: Joseph Harvie and David Campbell, The Packet
South Brunswick Post, 11/24/2004
Municipalities to meet and discuss Route 92.
The Princeton Township Committee
endorsed a resolution Monday calling for a mediated roundtable with
other municipalities to determine the fate of Route 92.
The committee voted 3-0 in
support of a mediated roundtable similar to the one that was created by
the state Department of Transportation to resolve differences over the
former Millstone Bypass, with Committeeman William Hearon absent and
Mayor Phyllis Marchand abstaining.
South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese
called the Princeton vote a positive step. South Brunswick is
opposed to the proposed four-lane, limited-access toll road. He said
Tuesday afternoon he was happy that Princeton Township is open to
discuss Route 92.
"I think our position is at least
going to get a fair hearing from all towns," he said Tuesday. "And that's all we really ever asked, is
that people sit down and look at this road and try and explore other
Cathy Dowgin, a South Brunswick resident and a member of No 92, a group
opposed to the road, said she would attend the roundtable discussion if
she were invited and said it was nice to see Princeton Township come
out in favor of the discussion.
"I think it is about time that they really looked into it and not take
a blind stamp for the road," Ms. Dowgin said. "They have been let down the garden path in
the past and it is about time they had a mind of their own."
The Princeton committee's support of the roundtable concept comes one
month after the Princeton Borough
Council adopted a resolution on Oct. 12 calling for the same thing.
The two governing bodies were responding to concerns raised by the
Princeton Environmental Commission, which has members appointed from
both communities. The borough and the township have expressed support
of the highway in the past.
Laura Lynch of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter addressed the
Princeton committee Monday night. She said the time to act is now
before a final EIS is issued, when a final recommended alignment will
be unveiled with no further opportunity for public comment.
Ms. Lynch urged the committee to lend its support now, indicating that there are at least two groups prepared to
take legal action over Route 92, and said mediation in a
community-roundtable format is needed before lawsuits are filed.
"The flaws in the (draft EIS) will
lead to litigation," she said. She said it is not yet clear
where funding for such a roundtable would come from.
The Army Corps has been working on an environmental impact statement
for the roadway since 2000 because federal and state environmental
agencies disagreed over whether to issue permits for the filling of
wetlands required by the project. Conflict arose in 1999 after the
state Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit contrary
to recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Army Corps released its draft EIS to the public in April. A public
hearing on the document was held in May during which opponents of the
road vastly outnumbered those who spoke in favor of it. The majority of
the attendees were South Brunswick residents worried about traffic
impacts to their community, though opponents from other communities in
the region also spoke.
The committee's vote Monday night supported a roundtable, but a formal
resolution has yet to be approved. The Princeton Borough Council has
already approved such a resolution. The council did not reverse its
past support for the proposed roadway, but suggested a discussion
process similar to the one formed to mediate differences over the
former bypass might yield better results for the Route 92 design.
The borough and township have approved formal resolutions endorsing
Route 92. West Windsor and Plainsboro have also expressed support for
the roadway project. South Brunswick, Franklin and several other towns
to west of Route 27 have formally opposed the highway.
On Monday night, environmental
commission member Rosemary Blair said she was "mystified" by the
borough's and township's support of the road. She said the
roadway would funnel traffic from the
N.J. Turnpike into Princeton and neighboring Kingston, bringing "incredible traffic" to "already clogged
Route 92 has been proposed by the N.J. Turnpike Authority as an
east-west connector between Turnpike Interchange 8A and Route 1 near
Ridge Road in South Brunswick. The 6.7-mile toll road would be built
and managed by the Turnpike Authority, and would cost an estimated $400
In support of its case, the Environmental Commission points to a letter
submitted by the EPA in July as part of the public comment on the Army
Corps' draft document that claims all reasonable alternatives have not
been fully evaluated. The EPA letter says there is a potential for
"significant environmental impacts" from the limited-access toll road,
suggesting that, contrary to the corps' conclusions, Route 92 would
result in increased traffic congestion.
Environmental Commission members have
said the new Route 522, if a connection to the Turnpike were to be
built, could serve as an alternative to Route 92, and should be
considered as an alternative.
South Brunswick is moving forward with plans to extend Route 522 to
Ridge Road near Route 535, which runs directly into the Turnpike.
Construction is set to begin in 2005.
Princeton Township Mayor Marchand, who abstained from Monday's vote,
said she was "uncomfortable" supporting a roundtable at this time
because a final environmental review of Route 92 has not yet been
issued by the Army Corps. The mayor also said an east-west road such as
the one being contemplated by the Turnpike Authority is very much
needed in the region.
Princeton Township Committeewoman Casey Hegener disagreed, saying findings already suggest the proposed
roadway would bring harmful environmental impacts and questioned what
traffic benefits the road would bring.
"I personally believe there are a lot
of negative impacts," Ms. Hegener said, and indicated that
further analysis in a roundtable setting would be beneficial.