The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that seems to support the construction of Route 92. ##M:[more]##

The proposed 6.7-mile, limited-access four-lane road would link Route 1 near Ridge Road with the NJ Turnpike at Exit 8A of the New Jersey Turnpike. The road, to be built by the Turnpike Authority, would cut through the northern tip of Plainsboro and run east to west through much of South Brunswick along Friendship Road. Its estimated cost is $400 million.

A public hearing is scheduled on the document on Thursday, May 20, at the Radisson Hotel on Route 1 in South Brunswick from 2 to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to midnight.

The DEIS, when finalized, will be the primary document used by the state in determining whether the highway will be built.

In studying the project, the Army Corps of Engineers looked at numerous alternatives to the highway. The DEIS reports that out of all the alternatives studied, only two meet the stated project objectives as currently proposed by the Turnpike Authority — Route 92, and the widening of Route 1 in South Brunswick with the removal of traffic signals.

“Traffic modeling conducted indicates that the project purpose and need are achieved by the proposed Route 92,” states the EIS. “This alternative is also effective in reducing traffic congestion in the region and in removing truck traffic from local roads. This alternative exhibits less environmental impact than most other alternatives.”

The DEIS states the widening of Route 1 to six lanes would achieve the project purpose but may be difficult to bring into reality. “The socioeconomic impacts of this alternative are expected to be high due to land acquisition, business dislocation and, disamenity” the DEIS states.

The alternative also calls for the removal of the traffic signals at 15 intersections on Route 1 between Raymond Road and Georges Road, and the construction of new interchanges at five of the intersections.

“Meetings with the New Jersey Department of Transportation indicate that proposals to replace additional intersections with interchanges have not been included in NJDOT’s capital plans and funding proposals, because past evaluations have indicated limited effectiveness and high cost.”

Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu, a long-time supporter of Route 92, says the document proves the case for the highway’s construction.

“There should be no further question that Route 92 is a necessary and environmentally appropriate way to get through traffic — particularly trucks — off our local roads, making our towns safer,” said Cantu. “Anyone who takes the time to read this document will see that the opposition to this road is rooted in misinformation. The Army Corps has done an excellent job of telling the true story about Route 92.”

The objectives of the project, as reported in the DEIS include:

• Establishing a road system that removes traffic from local streets, while providing a separate high-speed route for traffic moving between Route 1, Route 130, and the Turnpike.

• Providing a connection to alternative routes for north-south traffic currently using Route 1.

• Reducing non-local truck traffic on local roads and shifting it to a connector highway.

The DEIS states that alternatives are eliminated from consideration if they have high permanent wetlands impacts, affect large areas subject to farmland preservation, or “relatively significant” impacts on parklands or preserves.

Alternatives are also eliminated for causing substantial residential, commercial and public dislocation, or for not meeting the stated purposes of the project.

One alternative studied was the implementation of traffic management measures such as ride sharing, flex hours, and public transit.

According to the DEIS, such measures “would not significantly mitigate the existing congestion problems.” It does suggest, however, such strategies as be implemented along with other improvements.

The Army Corps also found that the South Brunswick alignment (see above map for proposed alignments) have greater impact to permanent wetlands and open water.

The South Brunswick alignment would affect 43 acres of wetlands or open water, while the Route 92 proposal would only affect 12 acres.

The report finds that two other alternatives — the Dey Road parallel alignment and Plainsboro Road alignment — “have substantial impacts on legally preserved farmlands and, in the case of the Dey Road parallel alignment, substantial residential dislocation impacts.

According to the DEIS, 27 acres of preserved farmland would be destroyed, and 33 would be impacted by the Plainsboro Road alternative. A total of 63 families would be dislocated by the Dey Road plan.

Under the Route 92 plan, no preserved farmland would be destroyed and four homes would be dislocated.

The plan recommended by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency would also have greater wetlands impacts than most of the other alternatives, and would destroy 48 acres of the Plainsboro Preserve. The EPA plan would also adversely impact 11 homes and disturb 13 acres of wetlands.

An alternative that calls for the widening of Route 522 does not meet the project purpose, according to the DEIS, and also impacts seven acres of wetlands, and would affect 58 homes. This alternative would also run through Pigeon Swamp State Park.

Alternatives that call for the widening of Plainsboro Road and Cranbury Neck Road have a smaller impact on wetlands but would cause “substantial” residential dislocations. “These alternatives would exhibit major social impacts to the community,” says the DEIS.

The Army Corps also found that a two-lane Route 92 would only partially meet the goals stated by the project. “The alternative, while reducing wetland impacts by two acres and slightly reducing other environmental impacts, would be less effective at removing non-local traffic from local roads.” Studies also showed that a two-lane Route 92 would reach 100 percent capacity by 2008.