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This letter was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 7, 1999

Letter to the Editor:

On March 16, in a closed meeting, local governing officials

"reached consensus," rejecting the most recent plan for the

Millstone Bypass and supporting the original NJDOT plan for the Bypass

(U.S. 1, March 24). In this plan, you will recall, the road swings

around through Princeton University lands, running adjacent and parallel

to the canal, to connect with Washington Road. Except for a "proposed"

extension of the road between Washington and Alexander, and Washington

Road remaining open at U.S. 1 for right turns in and out, the "consensus"

plan is the same as the original NJDOT plan revealed to the public

nearly three years ago.

This is most surprising, since as recently as last November, when

NJDOT proposed removing the connection to Washington Road, project

manager Lynn Middleton said the changes were made to address the concerns

about the elms and the D&R canal. The plan proposed at that time was,

of course, unacceptable because it placed an undue burden on Harrison

Street, so with nothing more creative to offer, NJDOT has returned

to the original plan. Major concerns still exist:

1. The Millstone Bypass connects with the N.J. Turnpike.

It will connect with a widened Route 571, which in turn connects with

the Hightstown Bypass, now under construction, which connects with

the turnpike. The Millstone Bypass, far from being a "local road"

is in fact a link directly with Exit 8 of the NJ Turnpike.

2. The size of the roadway is still undefined. The consensus

included the requirement that the road remain two lanes. So did the

original bypass design. The question remains as to how wide these

lanes, and the all-important shoulders, will be. The original design

shows the Millstone Bypass overpass as a mirror image of the Alexander

Road overpass, which is very large.

3. Environmental concerns have not been adequately addressed.

Washington Road and the Elm Allee are now listed on the State and

National Register of Historic Places. The Historic Sites Council must

approve any plan that adversely affects this site. There are NJ State

regulations concerning impacts to the D&R Canal, also an historic

site. Yet, the new proposed connector with Alexander poses twice the

threat to the trees and the Canal, as the road will cross Washington

Road and run for the full length of the towpath between Washington

and Alexander. Federal law requires that an Environmental Impact Statement

be prepared on large road projects that impact environmental areas

such as wetlands or historic properties.

While NJDOT insists this is a minor improvement to the Washington

Road intersection with Route 1, it is clear that this is a major regional

project requiring an Environmental Impact Statement.

4. The "consensus," reached behind closed doors,

is illegal. Federal transportation law provides reasonable procedures

for the planning of major road projects, which include public input

(the locals just might have some knowledge and good ideas!) and analysis

of environmental impacts. NJDOT has consistently skirted these regulations.

5. Alternative designs have not been adequately explored.

Washington Road was built in 1802 as a connecting link between Penns

Neck and Princeton. Without keeping Washington Road open to traffic

over a depressed Route 1, (a plan supported by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora

and Princeton Mayor Marvin Reed), this link between the two communities

will be severed, depriving West Windsor and Princeton of a direct

route to the train station, hospital, and cultural assets.

6. It is too early for a consensus on any alignment. Elected

officials have a duty to explain to Princeton residents why this consensus

has been reached without the requisite environmental analysis and

proper procedures. This major road project will be "set in concrete,"

literally. Rather than being so eager to come to closure, they should

refuse to accept any plan until the National Environmental Protection

Act requirements are carried out.

Peggy Killmer,

Jean A. Mahoney


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