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NJ Sierra Club Blasts Ribbons of Asphalt Project - Parkway Widening


Date : Mon, 6 Jul 2009 12:22:19 -0400

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director

July 6, 2009
(609) 558-9100

 

NJ Sierra Club Blasts Ribbons of Asphalt Project

 

As Governor Corzine cuts the ribbon for another highway widening project, this time on the Parkway, the Sierra Club is blasting the administration for promoting more ribbons of asphalt through the state's most environmentally sensitive areas while undermining real transportation solutions.

 

The Parkway widening project will have significant impacts in one of the most environmentally sensitive regions of New Jersey and will do nothing to solve the state's transportation needs. This project 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.

 

"All we're doing is turning the Parkway into a bigger, more expensive parking lot," NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. "This project will create two 50 mile long ribbons of asphalt, which will pave over the Pinelands and environmentally sensitive coastal areas, will make sprawl and traffic worse and take money away from the areas that actually need it."

 

One of the major reasons for traffic on the Parkway is summer Saturdays, when beach house rentals turn over. Much of the traffic on the Parkway could be addressed by staggering summer rental turnover between Saturdays and Sundays, rather than all on Saturdays. This approach is being taken in North Carolina's Outer Banks and in Ocean City, Maryland as a way to combat congestion.

 

This project is being pushed through without consideration of alternatives, such as adding flex lanes, doing partial widenings in the Toms River Manahawkin area, having train service via the MOM line running, adding a bus rapid transit lane, and, more importantly, fixing interchanges. Implementing smart alternatives will not only establish permanent solutions for traffic problems, but will also save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

 

New Jersey will have to triple its tolls to pay for this project because the state hasn't done a proper environmental review under NEPA, tried to protect environmentally sensitive areas or looked for transportation alternatives, therefore it cannot qualify for federal dollars. It is now up to the state's taxpayers and toll payers to fund this project. Both the Bush and Obama Administrations refused to fund this project because it violates environmental laws and procedures. It cannot get stimulus or federal highway money; because they won't fund it, we have to.

 

 "This project is about "pay to pave." It's about taking care of politically connected contractors and developers," Tittel said. "It's more about opening up more areas to sprawl and overdevelopment than it is about helping people commute to work."

 

The project will also increase state debt, even though recent government bond acts have not sold. The project, with its price tag of up to $1.2 billion, seeks to widen the Parkway by two lanes in each direction at a time when ridership is down nine percent due to the economy and spikes in gas prices. While project backers say the Parkway is only being expanded by one lane in each direction, they fail to note that a shoulder of 22 feet is also being added in each direction, allowing for the future addition of another lane without approvals or environmental reviews.

 

There will be major impacts to storm water and wetlands including the crossing of more than two dozen streams and numerous rivers, such as the Mullica, the Great Egg, and the Forked Rivers. Even more of a concern, the DEP is not looking at the secondary impacts from this project such as all the development that will come from this road widening and the additional pollution and flooding that will be caused by more sprawl and pollution from thousands of units of housing, shopping centers, office parks, etc.

 

This project will add more than 11 million square feet of pavement along our shore, which will increase flooding and storm water as well as water pollution. This road will cut through the Pinelands National Reserve, endangered species habitat areas, and several C-1 streams, which will have a negative impact because of storm water run-off going into the streams and the bays. This is the first time in the history of the Pinelands that a road project was allowed to destroy known habitat for endangered species.

 

This money would be much better spent fixing the Parkway in areas where there are real problems. Why are we widening the parkway in one of the least congested areas of the state while motorists are sitting in traffic between the Union Toll Plaza and the Bloomfield Toll Plaza?

 

This project establishes no access to Interstate 78 West from the Parkway North, or Interstate 78 East from the Parkway South. People are constantly stuck in traffic in Monmouth and northern Ocean County or up in Bergen County. The widening of the parkway will inevitably put more pressure on local roads creating the spin-off effect of more road widening, more road traffic, and more sprawl.

 

The purpose of this road widening project is to promote more development along our coast. The Sierra Club did a study in 2005 on the amount of development that would be allowed in the CAFRA or coastal zone along this stretch of the Parkway. Based on the designated planning areas in the State Plan and on Impervious Cover Limits under CAFRA, there's enough vacant land for 200,000 more people in Ocean County, 100,000 more people in the Atlantic County, and 50,000 in Cape May.

 

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.

 

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 will only make it worse. The additional vehicles will also release more greenhouse gases, undermining the emission reduction goals of 2007's Global Warming Response Act. The additional car trips encouraged by this project will negate any benefit gained from the Clean Car legislation.

 

 "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. "Governor Whitman committed to save a million acres of open space. It looks like Governor Corzine is attempting to pave over a million acres," Tittel said.

 

 

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 2009-07-06 09:22:19

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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