New Jersey transportation and environmental organizations convened in Trenton today to voice opposition to plans to widen the Garden State Parkway, NJ Turnpike, and Atlantic City Expressway. The three projects in total are estimated to cost nearly $3 billion, even though they will provide no long-term congestion relief.
Earlier this week, over two dozen transportation and environmental organizations sent a letter to Governor Corzine voicing opposition to the road projects (PDF). “The highway expansion projects represent a leap backwards for New Jersey, a state nationally recognized for its smart growth-oriented transportation policies,” the letter said.
“Once and for all, New Jersey needs to move out of the era of wasteful road expansion projects and into an era of sustainability. Wider highways attract more cars and induce more driving, absent of demand management strategies,” said TSTC executive director Kate Slevin.
As currently designed, neither the Turnpike nor the Garden State Parkway projects included in the Governor’s plan will provide long-term congestion relief. In fact, according to state data, parts of the new lanes on the Parkway will be filled with traffic as soon as construction is complete (See MTR #552).
The organizations also asserted that alternatives, such as congestion pricing and cashless tolling, were not adequately studied in the environmental documents, despite their track record of providing long-term congestion relief at a fraction of the cost of highway expansion (See MTR #s 546, 565).
Jeff Tittel, Director of Sierra Club New Jersey, said, “These projects promote sprawling development, will not ease traffic congestion and are incompatible with the Governor’s stated goal to reduce global warming emissions by 20 percent by 2020.”
The groups contend that thousands of additional cars the lanes are designed to carry will contribute to already high levels of air pollution, and that acres of wetlands and habitat will be destroyed in favor of new impermeable roadway that will contribute to local water pollution.
“It is well documented that roads are the equivalent of a ‘Berlin Wall’ to wildlife species and the proposed road changes would not only further limit animal movement, but would result in additional habitat loss and disturbance that would adversely affect locally sensitive plant and animal communities” said Gylla A. MacGregor, Conservation Ecologist for the New Jersey Audubon Society.
According to Dave Pringle of NJ Environmental Federation, “You can’t build your way out of congestion. Instead of widening these highways and spurring sprawl through the Pinelands and coastal wetlands, we should increase capacity by investing even more in fix it first, rail, air, busses, HOV lanes, and congestion pricing.”