S.B. reaffirms opposition to Route 92
Despite being defunded, project may not be dead yet
BY CHRIS GAETANO
North-South Brunswick Sentinel, Nov. 16, 2006
Despite having lost millions of
dollars in funding, the Route 92 project is still being pushed by the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which released what it calls a
final environmental impact study.
Public comment on the report, which weighs in at more than 2,000 pages,
was expected to be concluded today. According
to Ann Zeman, a South Brunswick resident who has been reading the new
study, the corps will be interpreting silence on the matter as
acceptance of the report's findings.
"It's very disturbing," said Zeman.
In response, Franklin Township has
already passed a resolution voicing opposition to the project. South
Brunswick's Township Council passed a similar resolution during a
"We're not going to give up the fight
now," said Deputy Mayor Carol Barrett.
In order to fight the project, the council hired attorney Michael
Gerrard, a specialist in such matters. In
May 2004, the township set aside $60,000 to fight the construction of
Route 92, which included paying Gerrard $625 an hour. According
to Gambatese, there is about $8,300 of the original battle fund left,
of which Gerrard has asked for around $7,500. He has been paid to read
the study and write a rebuttal before the deadline passes.
"We're hiring Mr. Gerrard for just
this reason, and the money is there," said Gambatese.
Zeman and the governments of South
Brunswick and many other surrounding municipalities have all
vociferously opposed the construction of the controversial Route 92.
The Route 92 project would have built a 6.7-mile toll road from Exit 8A
of the New Jersey Turnpike to Route 1 near Kingston. The project would
have cost around $400 million and was opposed by certain groups that
contended that it would fill 12 to 14 acres of wetlands. There were
also concerns that Route 92 would increase sprawl, development and
contribute to pollution.
Some towns, especially Princeton, have been vocal supporters of the
road, much to the annoyance of Gambatese.
In November 2005, the project received
a crippling blow when $175 million was taken out of its funding and
devoted, instead, toward the widening of the turnpike, which
many at the time interpreted as the project's death knell.
According to Steve Masticola, a member of the No 92 Coalition, a
citizens group that heavily opposed Route 92, the project should not be considered
harmless until it is completely and utterly buried.
"Even with 92 defunded, the Turnpike
Authority could 'discover' some pot of money to fund it in the future
unless it's killed outright," said Masticola.
South Brunswick has long promoted the
construction of Route 522-1A as an alternative to Route 92. The
road, the funds for which were bonded in December 2005, will run from
the intersection of routes 522 and 130, through a section of
warehouses, and re-connect with Ridge Road just west of the turnpike.
It will cost around $8 million.
Gambatese said that if people are
really worried about how to improve the flow of traffic in the area,
Route 1 should be widened. Councilman Joseph Camarota said that
the Army Corps of Engineers was being
disingenuous by calling the latest study a final one, since there are
already plans to present a new one, taking public comments into
account, sometime in December.
"Even though they say it's final, it's
not, and that's why we need to get [our rebuttal] out there,"
Gambatese noted that the issue of
Route 92 keeps popping up, especially during transportation forums
that he and Township Manager Matthew Watkins attend every so often. He said he is getting frustrated.
"All I hear is [Plainsboro] Mayor
[Peter] Cantu and ex-Mayor [Marvin] Reed of Princeton constantly
bringing up 92, constantly, and nothing ever stops. Every single
quarter, the same rhetoric is put forward and nothing ever gets done,
and I told them, point blank, South Brunswick is tired of it,"