Last week, a New Jersey judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block an expansion of the American Dream Meadowlands megamall development, finding that the project was not far enough along for an alleged breach of contract to have occurred.* The Giants and Jets filed the lawsuit against the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA), which oversees development and activities in the Meadowlands, arguing that the traffic caused by an anticipated 55 million annual visitors to American Dream Meadowlands would have adverse effects on game days.
In his decision, Superior Court Judge Doyne emphasized an NJSEA attorney’s statement that the project developer still had to provide the agency with more information on American Dream Meadowlands’ traffic impacts: “a ‘Project sequencing plan,’ a ‘traffic and infrastructure sequencing plan,’ and an updated traffic study for the amusement park and water park.” While the counsel’s statement doesn’t constitute a legally binding commitment to further traffic study, it indicates that the NJSEA is seeking up-to-date congestion information. Since the completion of an earlier traffic study that was submitted with the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2011, the developer added plans for a DreamWorks Animation theme for its amusement park addition. This theme park was not included in the project, nor studied, when the developer first announced plans to resurrect the failed Xanadu project in May of last year. With this addition and a flawed baseline study, a new traffic study is essential. There is no guarantee that the expected analysis will address those concerns raised by Tri-State and area elected officials.
Although the teams’ claim was dismissed, the debate about the project’s traffic impacts is by no means over. NJSEA has stated that there will be public hearings during which game day traffic impacts could be addressed, and Judge Doyne clarified that he will be the final arbiter if any issues of “adverse impacts”—including traffic—remain.
Tri-State has long contended that the traffic impact from American Dream Meadowlands will have adverse effects on the entire region seven days a week. The region’s roads were recently crippled when a mid-week event at MetLife drew a crowd of about 90,000 (American Dream expects 150,000 daily visitors).
*Technically speaking, only one of two counts was dismissed.