In a recent court filing, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority asked the NJ Appellate Division for sanctions against the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which is suing the Authority and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection over the widening of 50 miles of the Garden State Parkway. The Campaign claims that the DEP should not have approved the project because the NJTA had not made a case or followed public notice requirements for the massive highway expansion.
The Authority alleges that Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s suit is “frivolous” and thus subject to sanctions under NJ law, potentially amounting to thousands of dollars in legal fees. The Campaign has countered that such claims are baseless and calculated only to delay a hearing on the merits. The case, which was originally filed in February, is still in the pre-trial stages.
“This attempt by Governor Corzine to silence his critics,” says Kyle Wiswall, General Counsel at Tri-State Transportation Campaign, “is a chilling example of intimidation by state government and something that should be of concern for everyone in New Jersey, whether or not they support the project.” (Another state agency, the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority, employed similar tactics last year, filing a SLAPP — “strategic litigation against public participation” — suit against the Sierra Club that was thrown out.)
“The state’s claims simply don’t hold water,” continued Wiswall. “Their allegations are serving only to delay and dissuade public access to the court system.”
“The fact remains that Governor Corzine plans to spend nearly $1 billion on a highway widening project that is going to fill up with traffic shortly after it’s finished and that is going to increase sprawl development and congestion throughout the corridor,” said Kate Slevin, Executive Director of the Campaign.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s own documents show that portions of the new lanes will be filled with traffic shortly after construction is complete. As indicated in Table 3-12, on page 3-40 of the environmental impact statement, one-third of the project area will be over capacity by 2025, the year for which the engineers designed the project. Specifically, the widened road will accommodate 52,200 cars per day. But by 2025, five sections of the 15 to be widened will have more than 52,200 cars per day. In other words, traffic will be worse on the widened road than it is today.