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NJ Sierra Club Blasts Turnpike Widening Project

Date : Thu, 2 Jul 2009 11:39:01 -0400

For Immediate Release

July 2, 2009 Contact: Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

NJ Sierra Club Blasts Turnpike Widening Project This project should take a hike instead of hiking our tolls

The Sierra Club blasts the Corzine administration for cutting the ribbon to the Turnpike widening project without looking at other alternatives or doing proper environmental reviews. This widening project will do nothing to solve the state's transportation needs. It will just mean more sprawl, more traffic, and more pollution for the people of New Jersey, who will be spending more money to be stuck in traffic longer.

We have to triple our tolls to pay for this project because the state hasn't done a proper environmental review under NEPA or looked for alternatives, therefore it cannot qualify for federal dollars. It is now up to the taxpayers and toll payers of New Jersey to pay for this project.

This widening project is a throwback to the 1950s and Robert Moses; it is bad transportation planning that will promote bad land use planning that will not only hurt the environment, but hinder our ability to deal with global warming. The environmental impact statement for this project was a joke; it did nothing to mitigate the impacts of this project or look for alternatives. This widening goes through open space and parklands and will cause more flooding and water pollution.

"This project in its current form is the opposite of smart growth; it is dumb growth and a huge waste of money," NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

The project will also increase state debt, even though recent government bond acts have not sold, including the New Jersey Infrastructure Trust Bond Act and others.

This plan is the most expensive project ever proposed by the Turnpike Authority, with an expected price tag of up to $3 billion for the widenings and additional debt service. While the proposal claims it will reduce congestion, it seeks to widen the Turnpike in suburban and rural areas of the state at a time when ridership is down six percent due to the economy and spikes in gas prices. "This money will largely be used for widening projects in Central New Jersey where it will promote sprawl," Tittel said.

Instead, this money should be used to fix dilapidated roads like Pulaski Highway and our deficient bridges, since half in the state have been deemed deficient.

Today's ribbon cutting demonstrates that Corzine is once again doing the opposite of the Obama Administration, where they want to protect the environment, build more public transit, and fix deficient roads and bridges. "Instead the Corzine Administration is the unbama administration, promoting sprawl, overdevelopment, pollution, and environmental degradation," Tittel said.

The proposed widening on the Turnpike from exits 6 to 9 will increase sprawl in the Jamesburg to Bordentown area, which is 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.

If you build it they will come. 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 EPA recently released a report showing that areas along the turnpike have the worst air pollution in the country for toxins and this project will only make matters worse. 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. We could add one lane in each direction between exits 6 and 8A plus a two lane reversible truck-only road that would reduce truck traffic and save money.

The Chemical Coast Rail Line, which runs from Newark to New Brunswick and stops at the Turnpike, could be continued from Jamesburg to Bordentown, allowing for freight rail to go to warehouses. This would take trucks off the road, reducing traffic and limiting pollution. This could be done as part of a scale-down project where two lanes are added. Much of the traffic on both roads could be addressed by staggering summer rental turnover between Saturdays and Sundays, rather than all on Saturdays.

"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 Tittel.

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."

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609.656.7612

(f) 609.656.7618

<http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org

Received on 2009-07-02 08:39:01

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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