(updated May 20, 2007)
ROUTE 92 CANCELLED
COMMENT ON THE EIS FOR PROPOSED ROUTE 92
For KGA's response to the Army Corps of Engineers'
Final Environmental Impact Statement, please click here:KGA FEIS LETTER
The final EIS and all of the spoken, written, and tape-recorded comments made at the hearing for the Draft EIS, and the Corps' answers to them, can be viewed at:
Following are the statements made by KGA at the Army Corps hearing on May 20, 2004.
FROM: Kingston Greenways Association
PO Box 391
Kingston, New Jersey 08528
TO: New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Regulatory Branch, ATTN: Route 92 DEIS
26 Federal Plaza, Room 1937
New York, New York 10278-0090
By e-mail to: Nan.Route92@usace.army.mil
June 15, 2004 RE: Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Route 92 Project proposed by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority
South Brunswick/Plainsboro Townships, Middlesex County, New Jersey
Dear Ms Cronin:
With this letter, Kingston Greenways Association, a New Jersey Non-Profit Corporation (KGA) wishes to oppose the construction of Rt. 92 and record the following comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) concerning the proposal to build an extension of the Turnpike known as Route 92 from Exit 8A in Jamesburg to Route 1 in South Brunswick.
Kingston Greenways Association is a local open-space preservation organization whose members are dedicated to the preservation of natural habitat, parks, and farmland surrounding the 325-year old village of Kingston. The historic village of Kingston lies 1.5 miles due west of the proposed terminus of the new highway. Our primary mission is to preserve and protect the Greenbelt around the Village of Kingston.
We oppose construction of Route 92 for the following reasons:
The project will have a very negative effect on the Kingston Greenbelt.
It is stated in the DEIS executive summary [ES-6] that "alternatives [to Route 92] with relatively significant impacts to parks and open space preserves were eliminated from further consideration." Kingston is rich in preserved land, including the Cook Natural Area and the most heavily used segment of the D&R Canal in all of New Jersey.
In addition, a new 200 acre tract of open space--a historic cultural landscape which used to be the core of the Princeton Nurseries Kingston Site--is about to be protected as a result of a complicated negotiation between Princeton University, South Brunswick Township, the Flemer family and the New Jersey Green Acres Program. This new preserve, which links the Cook Preserve and the D. & R. Canal State Park , will be bordered by Ridge Road and bisected by Mapleton Road, the two closest east/west roads to the proposed Rt. 92 terminus in Kingston.
Further to the west lies the Trap Rock Industries' Kingston Quarry, which is bordered by Rt. 603 in Kingston [said road being the continuation of Laurel Avenue into Rocky Hill]. When the Kingston Quarry is eventually depleted, its "Mine Recovery Plan" calls for conversion of the quarry into a Reservoir (for use by the New Jersey Water Supply Authority) and the surrounding land into open space. The area is in Somerset County's Master Plan as a proposed new State Park.
It is our concern that westbound traffic that is fed onto Ridge Road by Route 92 will ultimately be funneled right through the middle of our Greenbelt. Traffic that continues further west on Laurel Avenue will drive between the Canal and the future reservoir, thus bisecting the acreage. This area contains a beautiful section of the D. & R. Canal State Park and also the site of the Rockingham State Historic Site, an important historical site. It is one of the twenty-five "essential sites" for the proposed Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area.
The Kingston Greenways Association is very concerned about the effect Route 92 will have on these properties. Noise from vehicular traffic is expected to detract from the serenity of these properties. Polluting run-off from the traffic will have a negative impact on the Canal and Heathcote Brook and its tributaries' water quality [and hence on our drinking water]. Light pollution from the planned interchange at Ridge Road will have a negative impact on the rural character of this protected land.
Yet we see no mention or recognition of the negative impact of Route 92 traffic on Kingston's parks and open space preserves. Why was this not considered? We feel that this is an important oversight in the DEIS, especially since you yourselves chose to "eliminate" alternatives [to Route 92] with relatively significant impacts to parklands and preserves from further consideration.
2) The proposed project will have negative impacts on Species of Concern.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) records described in the DEIS indicate potentially suitable habitat in the Route 92 corridor for so-called "Species of Concern" including Cooper's hawk, and Savannah Sparrow, both state-listed as threatened. The Kingston Greenways Association has many birders in our ranks. We have recorded sightings of 4 Species of Concern [namely Savannah sparrows, Osprey, Bald Eagle and Coopers hawk] in at least one of our Kingston counts between the year 2000 and now. In addition, a pair of bald eagles is confirmed to be nesting this year within a few miles of the proposed terminus of this proposed road. Could you comment on the potential negative effect proposed Route 92 will have on these endangered species?
3) The DEIS does not fully indicate the scope of the project.
Section 4-9 (p. 258 of 386) of the DEIS states that "NJTA is enhancing the stormwater management design to ensure that its proposed project does not increase flooding impacts and complies with NJDEP's recently enacted stormwater management rules. In a letter of March 18, 2004, NJTA states that "the Authority will ? assure full compliance with the recent New Jersey [stormwater] regulations implemented earlier this year." However, it does not appear that these revised approaches are described in the Draft EIS. When will these be available for review and comment? How can the public properly assess the environmental impact of the project, if we don't know what is actually going to be done?
Protecting the project area from flooding impacts is laudable. Kingston Greenways Association is in favor of, and supports the State's new storm water regulations, but could you please comment on the effect on the new storm water regulations on overall cost of the project? We assume that such compliance has the potential to add millions of dollars to the proposed cost.
4) Approval of Route 92 would undercut the federal and state of New Jersey commitment to protecting wetlands and subvert the public consensus embodied in the Clean Water Act. In addition the proposed mitigation plan would result in the loss of farmland. Yet you yourselves chose to "eliminate" alternatives [to Route 92] with farmland from further consideration.
In the view of EPA, NJTA's application fails to meet the standards required by The Clean Water Act (CWA) for disturbing freshwater wetlands. The standard CWA has established for the protection of wetlands is an objective standard and to many experts' view, the minimum acceptable level. CWA balances the interests of economic growth and environmental protection. Its provisions and regulations represent the product of thousands of compromises between advocates for a clean environment and business interests. These compromises are embodied in the standards set by CWA: they cannot be compromised any further. There is a clear set of rules that determine under what conditions sensitive wetlands may be disturbed. The NJTA's proposal for Route 92 does not meet these requirements. Approval of this project over the objective evaluation of EPA would set a terrible precedent: it would undercut the public consensus embodied in the Clean Water Act; it would send a message to citizens who care about the environment that we cannot trust our government to carry out the law in the face of pressure from powerful development interests; and it will harden positions when future legislation and regulation is contemplated, when environmental advocates know that special interests cannot be trusted to abide by the rules. In addition, we also note that the proposed Route 92 Corridor lies within the Coastal Plain aquifer [which is a sole source aquifer]. Sole source aquifers are aquifers that represent the sole or principal source of drinking water (more than 50 percent) for an area. Because such aquifers are a major source of potable drinking water supply, maintenance of water quality and adequate aquifer recharge is imperative. The federal government sponsors the Sole Source Aquifer Program, which enables the designation of sole or principal source aquifers. Upon designation of a sole source aquifer, federal agencies can be barred from granting financial assistance to projects that could endanger that aquifer (USEPA, 2003). Are you expecting to receive any federal funds to build proposed Rt. 92? If so, what impact do you think it will have that the project is underlain by sole source aquifers? Can you please comment on how much this will affect the amount of money that will be carried by NJ taxpayers to pay for this road?
5) Route 92 violates the New Jersey State Plan.
As noted above, Route 92 cuts through environmentally sensitive land designated PA5 in the State Plan. As advocates for the preservation and protection of natural lands, the Kingston Greenways Association believes that the State Plan offers an essential framework for environmentalists and developers alike to shape development to meet human needs -while protecting natural, historical, and agricultural resources. The State Plan wasn't handed down from Trenton: it is the result of negotiation among municipalities and counties (and their planners) with considerable input from "stakeholders" (land owners, developers, and a wide range of citizen groups and individuals. Their consensus was that this area is environmentally sensitive and must be protected from development. If the State Plan is to have any relevance, it must be followed--especially when it comes to protecting threatened environments. Approval of NJTA's proposal for siting Route 92 in the heart of the Devil's Brook stream corridor and aquifer recharge area renders the State Plan a meaningless, hollow exercise in bureaucratic paper shuffling. In May 2001, the New Jersey State Planning Commission designated the Kingston Village Center--the historic crossroads area and nearby properties--and also designated its Environs as an Historic and Cultural (HCS)/Critical Environmental Site (CES.) The approval of the Center Designation also included a Planning Implementation Agenda (PIA) for the village and its Environs. The central underlying issues embodied in the PIA are the preservation of the historic character of the Village and the establishment of a permanent surrounding greenbelt of open space. The terminus of the proposed Route 92 abuts the (CES/ HCS) Environs. Ridge Road/ Heathcote Brook Road and Laurel Avenue/ Route 603 both lie within both the Village Center and its (CES/ HCS) Environs; these roads would bear an incredible impact from the traffic generated by the proposed Route 92.
6) The NJTA's proposal is not complete. It is merely the first phase of highway construction with further wetland impacts.
Completion of Route 92 will lead to pressure to continue the highway westward through additional wetlands and Kingston village. Indeed many proponents of Route 92 used a future Route 92 extension to Route 206 (the so-called "Princeton Bypass") to gain support for the NJ Turnpike Authority's proposed alignment. If Rt. 92 is built as planned, we feel that there will be subsequent pressure to extend the road to Route 206. If such an extension is built, it will slice through farmland recently preserved by Middlesex County, encroach upon the Heathcote and Carter Brook wetlands, including the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park's Cook Natural Area, and cut through woodlands and open fields that now provide much-needed open space for residents of Kingston developments off Route 27 and off Raymond Road. It will split Kingston in half, dividing two neighborhoods now connected by a series of wooded trails and walkways. Extension will not solve the problems, but merely encourage more poorly planned development, and destroy more wetlands and other communities west and north of Kingston.
7) The proposed Route 92 DEIS did not include many potential alternatives and those included were not thoroughly analyzed.
The DEIS process did not provide for adequate public input. A similar project, the Environmental Impact Statement for the Penns Neck Area Improvements, incorporated a Roundtable Advisory Committee that brought together various stakeholders including citizens, civic groups, businesses, elected officials, and members of various county, state and federal transportation offices. The review process involved various state agencies, continued for 2 years and yet provided 35 open public forums with opportunities for discussion, evaluation and consensus to develop project goals and objectives; and to thoroughly evaluate 19 innovative roadway alternatives. These alternatives were formulated with local citizens, in contrast to the Route 92 DEIS process. The Roundtable Advisory Committee for the Penns Neck Area Improvements was successful on many levels, and resulted in the selection of a $65 million roadway. Route 92 is likely to cost far more and deserves a similar comprehensive evaluation of alternatives and provisions for public input. We recommend that the NJ Turnpike Authority organize a Roundtable Advisory Committee similar to the Penns Neck Area Bypass to provide more opportunities for regional community input and more discussion of potential alternatives before issuing any permits for this project. Agency coordination and public outreach is essential to sound transportation planning.
President, Kingston Greenways Association
Local Newspaper Coverage
A ROUTE 92 PRIMER By: Charles W. Kim
The oldest unfinished road construction project in New Jersey seems to have a life of its own. The controversial Route 92 project dates back some 60 years, and despite several setbacks, and many incarnations, just refuses to die.
The plan was conceived in 1938 as a route to connect Route 206 with Route 33, providing a "gateway to the shore."
Over the years, the alignment, and distance of the road has changed dramatically. The state Department of Transportation finally gave up the project due to a lack of funding. But instead of just burying the plan, the DOT handed it off to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in 1995. That authority "embraced the plan", according to Executive Director Ed Gross. The authority's version of the project turns the once free thoroughfare into yet another toll road that connects Interchange 8A of the Turnpike with Route 1 in South Brunswick Township. Currently, the 6.7 mile connector is estimated to cost $370 million, and has the support of Governor Christine Whitman.
While some communities such as Cranbury, and Plainsboro see the proposal as a needed east-west link, South Brunswick and several communities west of Route 1 vehemently oppose the project, citing traffic impact as well as economic and environmental pitfalls. Approximately 14 acres of federally protected wetlands need to be filled in order for the road to be built. In order for that to happen, the Turnpike Authority needs a permit under Section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act.
New Jersey is one of two states in the union that can issue such a permit, and the State Department of Environmental Protection did just that in March, 1999. The US Environmental Protection Agency, however, maintains oversight of the plan because of the number of wetlands to be filled.
While the DEP supports the application, the EPA maintained its objection to filling the wetlands in September, 1998, saying that alternatives exist to the project. According to the EPA, the recent opening of the new Route 522 between Route 130 and Route 27, along with making improvements to several intersections in the region could fulfill the transportation goals of the project without building the connector.
With both environmental organizations at an impasse on the issue, jurisdiction shifted to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps conducted a public hearing on the issue in March, 1999, and asked the Turnpike Authority to complete an Environmental Impact Study on their plan in January.
In February 2000 the Corps released a statement saying that Route 92 could have a significant impact on the environment. The Corps concluded that an additional impact study was needed citing several factors including wetlands impact, the availability of less environmentally damaging alternatives, traffic impact and historic property issues.Completion of the new study and a final decision by the Corps could still be years away.
If the corps approves the application, and the EPA still objects, the issue could end up being decided in the Department of Environmental Quality located in the White House. The EPA has said that they do have a sort of "veto" power on the plan that would simply "take the land off the table", but doubt that they would use that power on this project.
Meanwhile, the Turnpike Authority now has the money to build the road. The authority included the funds to build Route 92 in their recently approved $900 million capital plan which contains a two phase toll increase for motorists using that roadway.
Sentinel News Paper Article - May 2007, 2004
Tri-State Transportation Campaign - Mobilizing The Region Bulletin - April 2, 1999
Borough passes resolution to consider Rt. 92 October 13, 2004
Washington Crossing Audubon Society - ROUTE 92 DECISION CRITICIZED
Build It | Don't Build It
Stony Btook Watershed Association - Draft Environmental Impact Statement