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printChoices and Consequences

Citizens Fight Back
Newspaper Coverage of Expansion Through East Brunswick, 1971-1972


Follow the story of East Brunswick's resistance to a Turnpike widening project through these transcribed newspaper articles from 1971 and 1972. It becomes readily apparent that twenty years after the Turnpike opened, attitudes about road construction had changed. In East Brunswick, residents responded to the Authority's widening plan with concerns over noise and air pollution, traffic congestion, and perpetual expansion. Some banded together to form the CCEB (Concerned Citizens of East Brunswick). After a series of legal battles, the CCEB agreed to drop the lawsuits it had brought against the Authority if the Authority agreed to monitor pollution levels along the seven-mile area as well as erect an earthen barrier to muffle traffic sounds. These concessions became the rule in later widening projects.


The Star-Ledger, n.d., probably 1971

By James Ladeda
     A citizens' group contesting a proposed Turnpike widening in Middlesex County yesterday won another temporary court decision against the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
     New Brunswick Superior Court Judge David Furman continued for a week a temporary injunction against the Turnpike Authority. This move gave the Concerned Citizens of East Brunswick time to appeal an apparent rejection of its application for a hearing by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
     The group is fighting plans to expand the Turnpike near their East Brunswick neighborhood from six to 12 lanes. The work would be part of a $125 million Turnpike improvement from Edison to New Brunswick.
     They are contesting the project on grounds it would cause environmental damage—noise and air pollution—to the Lawrence Brook area and New Brunswick city line.
     Accordingly, the citizens group applied for a hearing by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Yesterday, they heard from the state agency and learned their request was apparently denied. Attorneys for both sides said though, they thought the one paragraph letter, signed by Richard J. Sullivan, commissioner of environmental protection, was vague.
     Still, Leonard Weinglass, attorney for the citizens' group, said "I do get the clear impression we've been denied a hearing." The letter clearly angered Weinglass and some of the citizens.
     Sullivan's letter read, "… After a thorough consideration of the facts, we have concluded that the requested hearing would add little to the public record; further, there is a substantial question whether the department is empowered to require the appearance of all interested parties."
     Weinglass said the letter, which arrived yesterday at his Newark office, stopped short of words explicitly denying the hearing. Sullivan could not be reached for comment.
     However, Judge Furman gave the Concerned Citizens the option of appealing to the Appellate Division of Superior Court in Trenton or returning to Superior Court in New Brunswick.




     The citizens' group could choose to file for a plenary hearing in New Brunswick and have the merits of its case decided there.
     The Turnpike Authority contends that the expansion is needed to ensure safety in an area where traffic has increased.
     Yesterday, at its regular meeting it announced that a traffic study by the Turnpike Authority's engineering department had found a 40 percent decrease in the accident rate on the 12 lane stretches of the Turnpike.
     The rate according to Authority Chairman Alfred Driscoll, dropped from 120 to 70 accidents per 100 million vehicle miles.
     He called the report "complete justification" of expansion "in terms of lives and accidents."
     Weinglass maintained that the citizens' group has consulted with experts who report that "widening entices traffic onto the pike, particularly heavy trucks."
     "But we may get additional traffic anyway," Chairman Driscoll responded to this argument.
     He said the Turnpike Authority's plan is an attempt to keep the Turnpike "one of the safest highways in the world."
     The Turnpike Authority's counsel, David Dowd, contended in court yesterday that the type of complaint voiced by the citizens group "could apply to every construction project in the state."
     Judge Furman issued the initial temporary injunction on Sept. 3 to give the Department of Environmental Protection time to decide whether it would take the case and issue an administrative decision

© 1971. The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of The Star-Ledger.

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