Sierra Club: State still on the road to sprawl

Trenton Times
Wednesday, July 31, 2002


The Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter yesterday criticized the proposed Millstone Bypass and Route 92 projects and the completed Route 29
tunnel project as examples of transportation projects that promote sprawl.

Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club chapter, said the projects illustrate that although the McGreevey administration is making progress on "smart growth," it can do better.

"While the commissioner (James Fox) says they're fighting sprawl, the agency is still marching down the sprawl path," Tittel said.

Department of Transportation spokesman Micah Rasmussen defended the agency, saying it has largely gotten out of the business of building
new highways, which can promote sprawling development. It is focusing on bridge and road repairs and public transit, he said.

"I think there's a vast amount of agreement with Sierra and us," Rasmussen said.

The Millstone Bypass and Route 92 projects are the subjects of environmental impact statements. Tittel criticized the state for
budgeting money for road design and land acquisition even though study findings have yet to be issued.

With the studies ongoing, Rasmussen said, DOT has no crystal ball on whether the projects will move forward. The agency is working with the communities, he added.

As for the $105 million Route 29 tunnel, Rasmussen said: "We can understand where they're coming from, but it's already built and open
to traffic. The tunnel is something we inherited and not something this administration decided to build, but this administration was left with the responsibility to open and operate it."

The Millstone Bypass, a 2.5-mile long road, is eyed as a way to remove four traffic lights on Route 1 and ease congestion. It would carry
traffic from Route 571 in West Windsor near the Princeton Junction train tracks and cross Route 1 before rejoining Route 571 (Washington Road) east of Princeton Borough.

The Sierra Club is upset about the possible loss of a number of trees along the historic Elm Allee on Washington Road.

The estimated $350 million Route 92 project would stretch between Turnpike Exit 8A in Monroe to Route 1 just south of Ridge Road in
South Brunswick.

The club is concerned that the highway would cut through the last remaining open-space tracts in southern Middlesex County and fill in more than 14 acres of wetlands. It said it would open up new areas of Central Jersey to sprawling development.

The club criticized the tunnel as causing ecological damage to the Delaware River by filling in part of the river bed.

The Sierra Club listed three other projects as poor transportation proposals: a $200 million Route 206 bypass under way in Hillsborough; an expansion of Route 15 connecting Interstate 80 in Morris County to Route 206 in Sussex County and an extension of Route 55 through Cape May County.

Rasmussen said the state is in complete agreement on Route 55 and is not pursuing it.