Sierra Club: Road projects environmentally unfriendly

Associated Press Newswires
Copyright 2002. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

TRENTON, N.J.(AP) - Several pending state transportation projects will heighten traffic problems and increase pollution and sprawl, a representative of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club said Tuesday.

The Sierra Club cited the extension of Route 55, the expansion of Route 15, the Hillsborough bypass, the Trenton tunnel, the Millstone bypass, and the proposed Route 92 as environmentally unfriendly proposals.

But a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation said the administration has no plans to enact many of the projects that concerned the Sierra Club. Micah Rasmussen promised no plans would move forward without full community consultation and a review of any project's environmental impact.

The Sierra Club's announcement came the same day that the national Sierra Club released a report on transportation planning across the country.

"We shouldn't spend billions of taxpayer dollars on new highways that will gobble up open spaces, destroy wetlands, and create new traffic corridors," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

The potential projects are a mixture of state and federally-funded efforts.

Tittel said any expansion of Route 55 would cut through environmentally sensitive areas and wetlands.

He also said the Trenton tunnel, the only project actually completed, was one of the most wasteful projects in the country. Tittel said it caused tremendous ecological damage to the neighboring Delaware River.

Despite the McGreevey administration coming out against sprawl, Tittel said, project design and engineering continues to move forward.

"This is going to be a test for the administration," Tittel said. "Are they going to stand up for smart growth or are we going to get run over by more sprawl highways?"

Rasmussen said the administration and the DOT are in complete agreement with the Sierra Club.

"This DOT commissioner, this governor, and this department are focused on public transportation, curbing sprawl, and fixing existing roads first," Rasmussen said. "This department is almost entirely out of the new highway business."

Rasmussen said the department has no plans to extend Route 55 into environmental sensitive areas.