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 damagenoise and air pollutionto
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, "
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
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
© 1971. The Star-Ledger. All rights
reserved. Posted with permission of The Star-Ledger.