BY CHARLES W. KIM
North-South Brunswick Sentinel
May 13, 2004
SOUTH BRUNSWICK — The township estimates that it may spend up to $60,000 in the next month to fight Route 92 plans.
South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said Tuesday night that it may cost about $60,000 for the township to oppose the controversial New Jersey Turnpike Authority project between now and June 14.
"We certainly hope [the expense] is worth it," Gambatese said.
The township is preparing for a public hearing on the $400 million project on May 20 at the Radisson hotel on Route 1 and Ridge Road.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hosting the hearing to get public comment on its Draft Environmental Impact Study, which was released late last month.
The study looks at the 6.7-mile toll road that would connect Exit 8A of the turnpike with Route 1 in South Brunswick.
The township has vehemently opposed the planned roadway.
In 2000, the township hired New York-based attorney Michael Gerrard at a rate of $495 per hour to help fight the plan.
Gerrard is now charging the township $625 per hour, according to Gambatese.
"Now is when we need him," Gambatese said.
Gambatese said Gerrard is experienced in helping prevent roads from being built.
According to Gambatese, Gerrard was able to stop the West Side Highway plan in New York.
Last month, the corps issued its 400-page report on the project that examined many factors in the road’s construction.
The report was commissioned in 1999 after the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the Turnpike Authority’s plan to fill 14 acres of wetlands to build the road.
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a permit to allow the filling that same year.
The DEP has the authority to issue such permits under Section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act.
The EPA, however, can object to the permit based on the amount of wetlands to be filled.
The EPA said it objected because there were alternatives to filling the land, citing the completion of Route 522 as an alternative to the project.
Route 92 is the oldest unfinished road construction project in the state, going back some 60 years. It was first proposed as a "gateway to the shore" in 1938, connecting Route 206 with Route 33.
It was turned over to the turnpike in 1992 when the state Department of Transportation decided that it did not have enough money to build the road.
The Turnpike Authority has taken control of the project since that time, claiming that it will ease regional traffic congestion on east-west roads.
The corps report claims that the road will reduce traffic on many of those local roads by around 30 percent. According to the report, some 40,000 cars would use the connector road each day.
Residents of the historic village of Kingston worry that many of the estimated 20,000 cars coming to Route 1 at the western end of the road will continue into the narrow village streets.