Turnpike shifts Route 92 cash
By: Joseph Harvie, Staff Writer
South Brunswick Post, 12/01/2005
About $175 million of the $181.5
million set aside for the proposed Turnpike spur will be used instead
to widen the Turnpike between Exit 6 and Exit 8A.
In a move that pleased environmental
groups, local residents and township officials, the N.J.
Turnpike Authority decided Tuesday to use most of the money set aside
for construction of Route 92 to widen the N.J. Turnpike in central New
It will take about $175 million of the $181.5 million set aside for the
proposed N.J. Turnpike spur and use it for the widening project, said
Joe Orlando, spokesman for the Turnpike Authority. The authority plans
to add new lanes in both directions between Exit 6 and Exit 8A.
Mr. Orlando said the authority still
plans to move forward with Route 92 — a proposed 6.7-mile toll
road connecting Route 1 near Ridge Road to Exit 8A — once federal
environmental permits are issued. He said there is still $6.5 million
set aside for the project.
Mr. Orlando said the money is being shifted because the widening
project was more urgent and Route 92
does not have an anticipated start date.
South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said the decision to reallocate the money is a
"huge" step toward getting the road off the books. The township
and an organized group of residents have been fighting the road for
more than 10 years.
"I can now take my 'No 92' buttons and
file them away and temporarily not have to continue to put money aside
to fight the legal battle to end this road," he said.
Mayor Peter Cantu of Plainsboro, which has endorsed the toll road, said
he was not surprised.
"At this point in time it's obvious
there was a need for funding for widening the southern part of the
turnpike," he said. "They (opponents) may have been premature in
The Turnpike Authority has been working on Route 92 since 1991, when
the state Legislature approved legislation transferring responsibility
for the road from the state Department of Transportation. It approved
an alignment in the mid-1990s, but has not received federal
environmental approval. The state Department of Environmental
Protection issued permits in 1998, but the federal Environmental
Protection Agency balked sending the project to the federal Army Corps
of Engineers. The Army Corps released a draft version of the EIS in
The highway is officially opposed by South Brunswick, Franklin,
Montgomery, Rocky Hill, Hillsborough and the Hopewells. Princeton
Township, Princeton Borough, Plainsboro, Cranbury and West Windsor all
are on record supporting its construction.
Assemblyman Bill Baroni, the 14th
District Republican who represents both South Brunswick and Plainsboro,
was pleased with the authority's decision. He and state Sen. Peter
Inverso, R-14th, had called on acting Gov. Richard Codey to reallocate
the money after Gov. Codey announced the widening plan in
Mr. Baroni said Wednesday that moving the money will help save the
wetlands and wooded areas that stood in the toll road's path.
"One of my biggest objectives when I
took office was to stop Route 92," Mr. Baroni said. "I think this goes
a long way to preserving the critical environmental areas in South
Sen. Inverso said Gov. Codey and the
Turnpike Authority made the right decision putting the widening project
before Route 92.
"There was never enough money to
complete Route 92," he said. "With the cost of building it
increasing and all the other issues surrounding it, the Turnpike
certainly needs to look at that expansion."
Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-14th, said moving the cash will allow the N.J.
Turnpike widening to take place at the same time that Pennsylvania
Turnpike is being expanded. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is being
extended to meet with N.J. Turnpike Exit 6 and is expected to be
completed in 2011.
"It is going to be very important to keep on schedule with the
Pennsylvania Turnpike, and that is scheduled for the next couple of
years," Ms. Greenstein said. "If we can get together, New Jersey and
the Pennsylvania turnpikes will connect up and be able to solve a lot
of problems with trucks on local roads."
Mayor Brian Levine of Franklin said he
was worried about the impact Route 92 would have had on Kingston and
said the reallocation is the closest thing to the end of the road.
"They left some money, which to me
seems like in effect killing it," Mayor Levine said. "I'd hate
to see state money sit idle somewhere and there is $6.5 million sitting
idle that could be used in the budget or given back or actually put to
use in some projects."
Route 92 opponent Cathy Dowgin of Friendship Road said that, at the very least, the shift of money
pushes action on the road at least seven years into the future because
new studies would have to be completed once the widening is completed.
"The good thing with the turnpike
widening is that all the traffic studies done now are obsolete,"
Ms. Dowgin said. "They would have to
start from scratch and would have to wait at least until 2013 when
widening is completed and new studies are done."
Steve Masticola of Kingston, another vocal opponent of the road, said
he was happy to see the money reallocated, though he does not believe
the road has been killed.
"It's often been likened to Dracula,"
Mr. Masticola said. "I think this is another trip to the coffin."
Anne Zeman of Kingston, another opponent of Route 92, said Route 92 would have dumped too much traffic
in Kingston. The reallocation also would help save the wetlands
that stood in the road's path.
"We have all worked so hard for this
sort of thing to happen and you don't win a lot of them," Ms.
Zeman said. "We are so happy
especially for Kingston. It was going to end at our doorstep and that
EIS didn't take any of Kingston into account. We were delighted to hear
about the money. It was quite a boondoggle."
Damien Newton, N.J. coordinator for the Tri-state Transportation
Campaign, a group that supports transportation alternatives and
believes money should go to fixing existing roads rather than building
new roads, said his organization has opposed the road for years. He
said it was a big win for proper
"It is a victory for smart growth and
a victory over sprawl," Mr. Newton said.
Mayor Gambatese credited the work of
residents and government officials from both the Republican and
Democratic parties in South Brunswick for their work opposing it.
"It was long overdue and shows the
rest of the people in the state that when a township and the people
have a common goal to resist projects that are unwanted, it can do so,"
he said. "But it has to do so with a
real community effort behind it."
Packet Group reporter Emily Craighead contributed to this report.
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