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Sierra Club to New Jersey Turnpike Authority: Go Take a Hike

Date : Fri, 10 Oct 2008 13:01:43 -0400

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeff Tittel October 10, 2008 (609) 558-9100

Sierra Club to New Jersey Turnpike Authority: Go Take a Hike

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is pushing through Governor Corzine's toll hikes, which will do nothing to solve the state's transportation needs, but instead will charge people more money to be stuck in traffic even longer. The revenue from the more than doubling of tolls on the Turnpike is intended for use in road-widening projects, many of them in rural areas of Salem County and in the Pinelands. These projects will not alleviate congestion - they will only promote more sprawl, more traffic, and more pollution. They will also increase state debt, even though recent government bond acts have not sold, including last week's New Jersey Infrastructure Trust Bond Act.

"At a time when people are hurting financially, it is unconscionable to raise tolls for projects that are just going to promote more development in the wrong places," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

This plan is the most expensive project ever proposed by the Turnpike Authority, with an expected price tag of $6 billion for the widenings and additional debt service. While the proposal claims it will reduce congestion, it seeks to widen the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway in rural areas of the state at a time when ridership is down - this year ridership on the turnpike has dropped six percent due to spiking gasoline prices. "This money will largely be used for widening projects in Cape May and Salem Counties where there are more pine trees than there are people," commented Tittel. "If we are going to widen roads anywhere, it should be in heavily congested areas where drivers would actually benefit and the demand justifies the expense."

The plan for the Parkway, which would add an additional lane in each direction from exits 1 to 80, would cut through the Pinelands Preservation Area. Far from relieving congestion, the real purpose for widening the roads in this low population area is to induce growth. This thoroughfare will set up infrastructure for a projected population increase of roughly 500,000 people, a 50% increase from current populations. Ocean County is already struggling with sprawl and supplying water to new developments; more sprawl will further strain water, energy, and financial resources in the region.

The proposed widening on the Turnpike from exits 6 to 9 likewise threatens to increase sprawl in the Jamesburg area, now largely farmland. It also would eliminate the potential for more sustainable and effective options. Widening the road north of the Jamesburg exit will prohibit the future construction of a freight corridor from New Brunswick to exit 8A, an area filled with warehouses, which would take trucks off the road and alleviate congestion for cars. In the area north of exit 8A, widening would fill in approximately 200 acres of wetland habitat, which is critical for reducing the effects of flooding and purifying water. The Turnpike plan also includes a widening of 32 miles from exits 1 to 4, mostly in areas of farmland.

History has repeatedly shown that widening roads without reducing demand does little to ease traffic. The more lanes you build, the more development you promote, and the more cars you will get. In the end, New Jerseyans will pay more to sit in worse traffic.

These thousands of additional automobiles will increase particulate matter, a known cancer-causing agent, and other toxic air pollutants. The additional vehicles will also release more greenhouse gases, undermining the emission reduction goals of 2007's Global Warming Response Act.

Better options are available. By significantly scaling back the widening, New Jersey could reduce toll increases while protecting the environment. Toll incrases would be cut dramatically if the Parkway was widened only from Toms River to Manahawkin and a flex lane was added. Similarly, adding one lane in each direction between Turnpike exits 6 and 8A plus a two lane reversible truck-only road would reduce truck traffic and save money. Much of the traffic on both roads could be addressed by staggering summer rental turnover between Saturdays and Sundays, rather than all on Saturdays.

The Turnpike Authority is attacking our wallets to pave over New Jersey. The proposed plan is a throwback to the 1950s era of highway building. Unfortunately, we cannot use antiquated ideas to widen our way out of modern transportation problems. "We need modern solutions to modern transportation problems," concluded Tittel. "Smart, cutting edge strategies like reversible and flex lanes, expanded freight and mass transit, congestion pricing, high occupancy lanes, bus rapid transit, incentives for off-peak driving, and trip reduction programs will save not just the environment, but our wallets as well."

##########

Becca Glenn, Program Assistant New Jersey Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609-656-7612: phone

609-656-7618: fax

Received on 2008-10-10 10:00:01

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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