For Immediate Release: January 29, 2007
Contact: Damien Newton
Environmentalists to Corzine: Slow Down on Parkway Widening
A coalition of transportation reformers and environmentalist called on Governor Jon Corzine to slow down the expedited permitting process for the proposed Garden State Parkway Widening between exits 30 and 80. The Department of Environmental Protection’s only scheduled public hearing for the process is scheduled for tomorrow, January 30, at 7 P.M. in the Little Egg Harbor Municipal Building. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign asked the DEP to postpone the hearing, stating that adequate public notice was not given and access to the related documents has been limited. While the DEP has not formally responded to the Campaign’s request, an article in this weekend’s Asbury Park Press stated that the request was denied.
“The state is trying to have a public process without the public,” explains TSTC’s staff attorney Kyle Wiswall, “Not only is nobody aware that the hearing is happening, the DEP’s hearing notice gives no instructions on how or where concerned citizens can view the relevant documents. It is now incumbent upon Jon Corzine to force the agencies to allow the public to be involved in this process.”
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, American Littoral Society, and Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic, who represents the Campaign, have filed over 10 OPRA (Open Public Records Act) requests with the DEP and New Jersey Turnpike Authority and still have not had access to all the relevant documents, including the Alternatives Analysis, parts of the Threatened and Endangered Species Report and copies of the permit applications. By withholding this information, the state government keeps its citizens uninformed of the process.
“When state agencies appear to play games to keep information from the public, it immediately raises the question: what don’t they want us to know?” queries Kathy Shrekgast from the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic.
"How can the public comment on a project without all of the relevant information? We still don’t know answers to the most important questions about this project- what alternatives were identified and studied and why do our state agencies think this is the only alternative for us?" adds Susan Kennedy, from the American Littoral Society.
Concerns about the project go beyond the permitting process. The documents available are based on a seven-year old traffic study, precluding any serious consideration of the effect EZ-Pass, High Speed EZ Pass, or one-way tolling could have on congestion. All of these concepts were adopted in New Jersey or the surrounding areas since the state completed its traffic study. The studies also pre-dates contemporary ideas about how to manage volumes and congestion in new highway lanes, such as high-occupancy toll lanes.
“This is a project left over from the bad old days of design-and-defend engineering. The state is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand a road that will fill-up with traffic again in a few short years. Given the region’s transportation needs, can’t we do better then wasting all of that money on a project that will improve congestion for a couple of years at best?” says Damien Newton, TSTC’s New Jersey Coordinator.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is an independent, non-profit policy and advocacy group promoting environment-friendly transportation policies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.