Corrections or additions?
This article by Bill Sanservino was prepared for the October 25,
2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane: Millstone Bypass
In the 1970s and 1980s, a group of influential Hopewell
Township residents managed to stop Interstate 95 from passing through
their collective backyards. To this day motorists heading north from
Florida must scratch their heads at the turns and twists of I-95 as
it passes through New Jersey.
Now some Princeton officials, residents, and regional
are gearing up for a fight over the state Department of Transportation
plans to remove all lights from the Princeton-Route 1 corridor. If
they succeed the highway at Washington Road and Harrison Street could
be the only broken link in an otherwise clear stretch of highway
Last week the New Jersey Department of Transportation released an
Environmental Assessment for the proposed Millstone Bypass — a
roadway that would remove three of the last remaining sets of traffic
lights on the Route 1 corridor. To no one’s surprise the DOT’s
alignment, the subject of considerable public debate, came out on
Now opponents of the bypass are marshaling their forces in preparation
of a DOT-sponsored public hearing on the environmental assessment
to be held in the coming weeks. Opponents of the roadway have
that they have the resources and the wherewithal to stop or at least
slow the project for a long, long time.
The main purpose of the DOT’s 400-plus page environmental assessment
document — released on the Internet at
— was to identify potential social and environmental impacts of
the planned project to help determine whether an in-depth and lengthy
environmental study is necessary.
Under the state’s currently-proposed "preferred
alignment," the bypass would begin at the railroad bridge on Route
571 near the Ellsworth’s shopping center in West Windsor, and run
through the Sarnoff Center, paralleling the Millstone River. The road
would then cross Route 1 at a new overpass near Harrison Street and
turn south near the Delaware & Raritan Canal to eventually intersect
with Washington Road. The plan calls for the removal of traffic lights
at Washington Road, Fisher Place, and Harrison Street. The highway
is part of DOT’s plan to remove traffic lights on Route 1 between
New Brunswick and Trenton.
Ultimately, the Federal Highway Administration will make a
based on the DOT assessment and public comments and testimony on
to give the project a green light, or require another round of lengthy
evaluations to gauge the proposal’s impacts.
Meanwhile, opponents of the bypass are proposing their own plan of
attack for the upcoming public hearing. Princeton resident Peggy
of STOP says the group has hired "nationally-known
in their effort, but declined to mention their identities before the
"We are carefully reviewing the (DOT’s) documentation," Kilmer
says, adding that the environmental assessment was "very, very
poorly written, with inconsistencies even in its own logic."
says STOP’s chief concern is the planning process employed by DOT,
which she says did not follow federal transportation planning
George Hawkins, executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone
Association, told reporters he plans to review the document in great
detail, but said that based on initial observation, he is confident
the association can put a good case before Department of
and the Federal Highway Administration.
"Our biggest concern is the degree to which DOT and the FHA are,
in fact, open to all alternatives, or have they long since made their
decision on the so-called final alignment," Hawkins was quoted
as saying. "We will definitely go through this as if government
has an open mind, but their conduct to date has indicated
Throughout the waiting period for the environmental assessment,
has questioned the size and scope of the DOT’s document, arguing that
federal law defines an environmental assessment as a concise public
document that should be completed early in the assessment process,
and which is meant to briefly provide evidence for determining whether
an environmental impact statement is needed. Princeton Borough Mayor
Marvin Reed has said the Borough and Princeton Township plan to
review the environmental assessment with traffic and environmental
consultants hired by both municipalities.
West Windsor, where the bypass would be located, favors the project
as part of its long-term plans to keep cars moving on Route 1 and
to route regional traffic off neighborhood roads. Mayor Carole Carson
says that the "DOT came in exactly where I expected. They chose
the best alternative and looked at all the alternatives. Yes, the
project does have some environmental impact but that impact can be
mitigated. It bears out what West Windsor and DOT have said all along
— the other alternatives are not viable and they have impacts
The mayor adds that the project’s positives outweigh the negative
effects, from West Windsor’s perspective. "We can certainly live
with the impacts better than we can live without the bypass. West
Windsor really needs this bypass to move traffic out of Penns Neck.
There is too much traffic going through that neighborhood."
The longer the project is delayed, the longer negative conditions
on that stretch of Route 1 will continue to exist, says Carson.
traffic lights at Washington Road and U.S. 1 are dangerous and there
are frequent accidents there. It is important to remove that danger
zone from the township. The traffic idling on Route 1 resulting from
those lights is creating air pollution, traffic accidents,
We need to move this along — the traffic and the project."
The DOT report looks at the preferred alignment and several
including a no-build option; a Route 1 frontage road; and lowering
Route 1 to allow Washington Road and Harrison Street to pass over
the highway. It concludes that only the preferred alignment "meets
the project need and each of its objectives, and would avoid or
In most areas, the report found little impact from the project and,
in areas where there is, the report outlines proposals to lessen the
effects. "Where unavoidable impacts occur, appropriate mitigation
measures would be taken, such that the project would not result in
significant adverse environmental impacts that cannot be
According to the report, improvements at Harrison Street would require
"minor impacts" to the D&R Canal Park. The area affected is
about .029 acres. The report also states that "all towpath,
berm and prism components which are actively used components of the
park would be unaffected by these improvements."
The report claims that air quality, noise, water quality, floodplains,
and aquatic ecology impacts are all within state and federal
Several Route 1 properties would need to be acquired, states DOT,
including four residential properties, the Eden Institute, Princeton
Circle Exxon, the now-closed Gulf station, and Larry’s Sunoco.
The report also lists eight historic properties impacted by the plan:
the Covenhoven-Silvers-Logan House; the Princeton Operating Station
(now known as the AT&T building); the Washington Road Elm Allee; parts
of the Delaware & Raritan Canal; the Aqueduct Mills Historic District;
and three archaeological sites.
The state is required to wait at least 30 days before holding a public
hearing on the report. Officials have said that an exact date for
the public hearing is unknown and may not come until the new year,
due to scheduling difficulties resulting from the November and
According to DOT, once the public comment period is closed, it will
begin to assemble and address all of the public and agency comments
on the project. The DOT will then send a package to the Federal
Administration (FHWA) that includes the report and a summary of the
results of the public process. "If it is determined by the FHWA
that there are no significant impacts, then a Finding of No
Impact (FONSI) will be prepared," says a DOT press release.
it is determined by the FHWA that the project is likely to have a
significant impact, then a preparation of an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) will be required."
An EIS is an in-depth study of the roadway’s impacts and could take
up to 18 months to complete. If an EIS is required, the project would
suffer a crippling delay. DOT’s plans call for construction to begin
on the highway in late 2003, with a two-year construction timeline.
An EIS would push the project back at least two years.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.