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Golden Plate Bridge

Date : Thu, 4 Feb 2010 12:31:44 -0500

For Immediate Release
February 4, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

Golden Plate Bridge

The proposed widening of the Scudder Falls Bridge on Route I-95 is a colossal undertaking with an exorbitant price tag that will not solve the area's traffic problems. Instead, it will only lead to more sprawl and air pollution, while at the same time impacting our water and filling in wetlands.

The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) is proposing to widen the bridge to 9 lanes with 14 foot shoulders as well as add a bike and pedestrian path. A toll will also be added. This project will make the Scudder Falls Bridge twice as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge. With costs soaring to over $300 million dollars, we should call this the Golden Plate Bridge.

While we agree that Scudder Falls Bridge needs to be modernized and be made more effective, the current proposal imposes too many environmental impacts without solving the problems. This project is in violation of state and federal laws. The environmental assessment is wholly inadequate and fails to assess the real impacts this project will have. A further Environmental Impact Statement is warranted.

"This bridge is too big, too wide, too expensive and will increase sprawl, traffic and overdevelopment," NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. "This bridge needs to be redesigned in a way that will make the bridge safer, save people money and lessen the impact on the environment."

Some negative environmental impacts include:

* The taking of valuable park land and covering over the Delaware and Raritan Canal will affect water quality. More than one million people in Central New Jersey get their drinking water form the canal. * This project would increase flooding along the Delaware River, which already has its share of flooding problems. * The widening of this bridge to the proposed size will fill in wetlands, impacting the spawning habitat for the short-nosed sturgeon and other endangered species. * The filling in of wetlands and flood planes combined with the taking of parkland and preserved farmland will cause an increase in both noise and air pollution. * Air pollution will also result from the additional traffic on the bridge. * The view scapes of the historic Washington Crossing Park and Bowman's Tower will be blighted by this large and unnecessary bridge. * The project will promote sprawl and overdevelopment without an adequate plan to deal with that growth. * The current proposal is in violation of both federal and state laws, including the Federal Clean Water Act, Federal Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the New Jersey Clean Air Act, New Jersey Global Warming Response Act, New Jersey Clean Water Act, as well as the NJ State Plan.

This proposal is expensive and harmful to the environment and it will not alleviate traffic problems. For travelers heading south, Route I-95 will go from 5 lanes on the bridge down to 2 lanes once entering Pennsylvania. Vehicles during rush hour will be bottlenecking once leaving the bridge, causing traffic jams and accidents.

Because a toll is being added, local traffic will go to instead to the free bridges, like Calhoun Street or Washington Crossing. This will lead to more traffic on older, worn out bridges and congestion in our neighborhoods and towns.

There is not a need to expand the bridge to the size proposed. The data used when planning this widening project was collected in 2003. Since then, people are driving less. Traffic projections have gone down and all major toll roads are seeing fewer drivers. More importantly, the DRJTBC did not consider the change in traffic patterns in the region. The addition of a new interchange on I-95 in Pennsylvania will allow drivers to access the New Jersey Turnpike at exit 6 in Burlington County. This will divert cars and trucks from the stretch of I-95 where the Scudder Falls Bridge is located.

Not only is the proposed bridge itself badly designed but access on and off the bridge will continue to be poor. On the New Jersey side, the proposal calls for a small circle roundabout followed by a diamond interchange, an idea that the public strongly dislikes. This will only cause confusion, accidents and traffic jams. The current design is bad enough - this new proposal is similar to how it is now except for the added traffic circle.

Even the proposed tolls for the project are poorly planned. In an attempt to avoid a backup at the toll booth, the DRJTBC is proposing a toll without booths. Drivers without E-Z Pass will have their picture taken as they go over the bridge and will be mailed a bill. The administrative costs of that process will be equal to the revenue generated from the toll. Also, many travelers from out of town will receive a bill and will likely be confused and simply not pay it.

We agree that the Scudder Falls Bridge needs to be repaired to get rid of some of the concerns and safety problems but this massive and expensive proposal is not the answer. There are some reasonable alternatives.

The bridge could be redesigned with entrance ramps that actually merge onto the highway before the bridge, saving us tens of millions while making the interchanges safer and easier to navigate. Instead of widening the bridge by more than doubling its size, the DRJTBC could establish flex or reversible lanes that would allow more lanes to open up during rush hour.

According to its own assessment, the DRJTBC estimates that even after the widening, the bridge will still function at level a D. Currently it is at level F. For all that money, we will see hardly any improvement and there will still be congestion problems because of the design. The only objective this bridge widening will accomplish is more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere while people will loose their houses and land in the process.

"We should call this the bridge over the river why: why so big and why so expensive? Instead we should come up with a comprehensive traffic management solution for the area," 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 2010-02-04 09:31:44

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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