Transit group counters draft EIS
By: Matthew Kirdahy , Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 05/13/2004
Issues own rebuttal report
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign
is challenging the need for Route 92.
It says a traffic study included in
the Army Corps of Engineers' draft Environmental Impact Statement still
does not show a need for Route 92.
The 6.7-mile toll road would connect Route 1 at Ridge Road in South
Brunswick with the Turnpike at Exit 8A. The Turnpike Authority, along
with proponents of the highway, say the proposed road would alleviate
traffic problems on the roads called local and secondary east-west
roads in the study. These roads include Route 571, Cranbury Neck
Road/Route 615, Route 614/Plainsboro Road, Scudders Mill Road/Dey Road
and Route 522/Ridge Road.
The Army Corps released its draft EIS April 21. The study looked at
traffic and environmental impacts the road would have. According to the
EIS, Route 92 will take traffic off local and secondary east-west
connector roads. The report shows
that the highway would improve wait time at four township
intersections, and have no effect on 10 intersection. The Corps
will host a public hearing on the draft EIS May 20 at the Raddisson on
Route 1 in South Brunswick.
However, Tri-State — a group of
environmental and planning groups that support transportation
alternatives and says money should go to fixing existing roads —
said Wednesday in a press release that
two studies conducted by independent agencies hired by the government
show that there will be little demand for Route 92 and that the new
toll road would attract few cars and trucks.
The Army Corps based its Route 92 study on transportation and traffic
issues in three towns in southwestern Middlesex County and two towns in
northeastern Mercer County. The study area was bounded by the N.J.
Turnpike in the east, Route 27 and the Delaware and Raritan canal to
the west, Route 610/Deans Lane to the north and Route 571 in the South.
The area included South Brunswick, Plainsboro and Cranbury townships in
Middlesex, and West Windsor and East Windsor townships and Hightstown
According to Tri-State, a recent review of two earlier traffic studies
shows that the new highway will not meet any pressing transportation
needs. Tri-State reviewed traffic demand findings for Route 92 from a
1997 Environmental Partners report solicited by the state Department of
Environmental Protection and a 1998 report prepared by Hagler Bailly,
Inc., a firm hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Tri-State said the DEP report found
that the Turnpike Authority did not demonstrate that there was a demand
for the construction of Route 92. The traffic data the DEP's consultant
relied on was submitted by the Turnpike Authority in its
Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit Application, Tri-state says.
According to the report, the DEP under
Gov. Christie Todd Whitman "did not
release that consultant's report and instead issued environmental
permits to allow it to proceed."
In the press release, Tri-State said the Hagler Bailly report showed
"The Route 92 potential market is only
18 percent of all trips with either an origin or a destination in the
study area," the report said. "Route 92 will only remove 9 percent of
all internal-external and 9 percent of the external-internal trips from
east-west local roads."
Tri-State says the EPA report
concluded that Route 92 would remove just 3,309 daily through-trips
from the local east-west roads, representing 5 to 7 percent of all the
current through-trips using local east-west roads. The draft
EIS does not show this conclusion or even present an overview of the
traffic data it contains, according to Tri-state.
Tri-State says an east-west connector like Route 92 would only serve a
small segment of the area's trips.
"North-south demand is far strong,"
Tri-State said in the press release. "East-west
traffic issues can be addressed by a series of low-cost bottleneck
elimination projects to the existing roadway network."
The Army Corps EIS notes that the main highways that pass through the
study area run north-south. The highways include the N.J. Turnpike,
with interchanges at Exits 8 and 8A along the study area's eastern
edge, Route 130, Route 1 and Route 27. Route 32 connects between Route
130 with the Turnpike Exit 8A.
In addition, the EIS said the major peak hour traffic lows in the
traffic study area are the north-south flows along the N.J. Turnpike,
Route 1 and Route 130. The study did not say what times the peak hours
The study says that north-south travelers frequently use these local
and secondary east-west roads in an effort to bypass congestion on
Route 1 in North Brunswick. The study says these roads are serving
traffic that they were not designed to serve.
Some of the traffic numbers are then compared to traffic numbers the
report says would exist if Route 92 is not built, and existing roads
remain as they are. According to the EIS, local and secondary east-west
roads that have become clogged on peak hours were used as a basis for
traffic flow times in the study. The peak hours include a
two-and-a-half-hour period in the morning and a three-hour period at
The study uses computer models that track vehicles traveling at a
"free-flow" speed, the speed at which traffic can operate if unhindered
by surrounding traffic.
The EIS says the construction of Route 92 would result in a 17 percent
reduction in peak-hour truck volume on the local and secondary
east-west roads in the traffic study area and along Route 27 in Kingston
Peak-hour travel times are projected to decrease by an average of 10
percent if Route 92 is built, the report said. Travel times between
Route 1 in Plainsboro and N.J. Turnpike Exit 8A are expected to improve
by about 30 percent, the report says.
The engineers who conducted the study for this portion of the EIS used
an industry standard 20 years after the time the toll road would be
built. Assuming the road is completed by 2008, all of the traffic
numbers are measured between 2001 and 2028.
By the year 2028, morning westbound peak hour travel demand in the
study area is projected to exceed the capacity of east-west roads by 25
A peak-hour "network model" of the area developed for the study shows
that the capacity of Plainsboro Road will be exceeded by 120 percent
and that the capacity of Cranbury Neck Road will be exceeded by 84
percent. The effects would mean stretches of bumper-to-bumper traffic,
extensive delays and blocked driveways and intersections.
For example, the amount of time it takes drivers to travel from the
intersection of Route 130 and Dey Road to the intersection of Route 1
and Washington Road during peak hours is projected to be double, from
20 minutes to 40 minutes. Area-wide, morning peak hour travel times are
expected to increase by about 50 percent. Almost all intersections in
the area will be unable to process peak hour demand in the future
without significant delays, according to the report.
The study says it would take a motorist 49.7 minutes during morning
peak hours to get from the center of South Brunswick — along Route 522
in the vicinity of Kingston Lane — to Princeton Junction along Route
571 in the vicinity of the Northeast Corridor Rail Line. The same trip
took 28.5 minutes in 2001, according to the traffic model. The same
trip that took 27 minutes during evening peak hours in 2001 and would
take 36.3 minutes by 2028.
According to the study, delays at intersections in the study area are
expected to increase a median 85 percent by 2028. That includes a
increase in travel time at the intersection of Route 27 and Raymond
Road in Kingston from 10 seconds during morning peak hours in 2001 to
just under 3 minutes, 70 seconds, during morning peak hours in 2028.
The study also shows that three intersections in South Brunswick would
have a decrease in wait time during morning peak hours by 2028. The
intersection of Route 1 and Major and Sand Hills roads showed a
decrease in wait time from about 4½ minutes, 259 seconds, to 3
minutes and 18 seconds by 2028.
The intersection of Route 522 and Kingston Road had a 5 minute 23
second wait in 2001, and is expected to decrease to 5 minutes by 2028,
according to the study. The intersection of Route 1 and Route 522 will
go from about 11 minutes and 43 seconds in 2001 during morning peak
hours to about 8 minutes and 26 seconds.
The Army Corps also graded intersections in the study, with crossings
with getting grades on a letter scale, from A to F. The grades indicate
the intersections' level of service, or LOS. LOS is based on the
average delay per vehicle for criteria that includes speed, travel
time, maneuverability and safety at each intersection. A road that has
received an F, has reached its capacity, traffic flow is interrupted,
maneuverability is restricted and significant traffic exists.
The Army Corps compares the current status of intersections like Route
27 and Raymond Road and Route 1 and Major and Sand Hills roads with
conditions in 2028.
According to the report, the
intersection of Route 27 and Raymond Road received an F for morning
traveling, and a B for evening peak hours. If Route 92 is built, the
intersection would remain an F for morning peak hours and drops from B
to E during evening peak hours.
The intersections of Route 27 and Route 522, and Route 1 and Major and
Sand Hills roads, Plainsboro Road and Route 535 and Georges and
Kingston roads all showed improvement with Route 92.
The study says another expected impact of constructing Route 92 is that
trucks traveling between N.J. Turnpike
Exit 8A and Princeton could find it easier to use Ridge Road between
Route 27 and Route 1 in combination with Route 92. The report estimates
that during each peak hour, an additional 20 trucks would use this
portion of Ridge Road compared if Route 92 is built.
The study says that on average, trucks comprise more than 5 percent of
the total traffic using east-west local and secondary roads. One in
five of these trucks are using local roads to travel through the towns
the roads serve, without servicing the towns. The report said it would
be good to get these trucks on to nonlocal routes. Without any changes
in the traffic network, future increases in truck volumes on local
east-west roads are predicted to increase by approximately 35 percent.