Sierra Club: Gov. Sides with Disastrous Highway Plan that will Hurt Environment & Commuters

Gov. Sides with Disastrous Highway Plan that will Hurt Environment & Commuters

 

The NJ Turnpike and GSP expansion plan and the South Jersey highway expansion in the Pinelands have both been approved. Governor Murphy, after being silent about both of the plans, came out in support after they were both approved yesterday. Murphy also had answers for environmentalists, as he disagreed with the idea the projects are inconsistent with his green energy policies, as they will put more cars on the road.

“Governor Murphy finally came out after being quiet for months in support of the highway widening plan being pushed by the NJ Turnpike and South Jersey Transportation Authority. This directly counters his words on reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution, protecting Environmental Justice Communities, and protecting our clean air. The NJ Turnpike Authority and the SJ Transportation Authority rushed through major highway widening projects without appropriate public input that will impact New Jersey negatively for decades to come. These major sprawl projects will cut through neighborhoods, increase GHG’s and impact public health,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Governor Murphy stated, “I’d say two things on the environment,” “No. 1, there’s a whole lot of idling that goes on of cars and, over time, once this plan is executed, that will go down dramatically. There are untold emissions that are coming out as a result of that idling and congestion.

“Governor Murphy’s response that widening highways will reduce idling is false thinking. It has been proven false for decades. When you widen roads, you increase traffic and just move the bottleneck from one place to another. It’s like creating wider parking lots with even more idling. These projects will add almost 1 million more cars on our roads and add over 100 million tons of GHG’s per year. Widening the turnpike in areas like Jersey City may require bulldozing buildings. What’s even worse is the bottleneck created when 4 lanes of cars have to go through a 2-lane tunnel,” said Tittel. “SJ Transportation Authority’s capital plan will add over 30 lane miles in the middle of the Pinelands region. The Delaware Memorial Bridge is only 4 lanes, which means major idling and bottlenecks with 10 lanes of cars trying to merge through.”

Governor Murphy states, “And secondly, the Turnpike Authority — and this is not by accident — (is) going to put a lot of electric vehicle charging infrastructure into their rest areas.”

“We are driving ourselves back to the 1950s if we think adding 1 million more cars on our roads during rush hour is okay. It will undo and offset any benefits from EV improvements in our state. There is only a small number of electric vehicles on our road and putting more charging stations along our highways will not offset the millions of tons of pollution created from these widening projects,” said Tittel. “It will also mean more traffic going through Environmental Justice communities like East Orange and Jersey City. These widening projects will create more sprawl and pave over environmentally sensitive areas in the Pines.”

A more responsible way for these agencies to reduce traffic and protect our air quality would be to look at expanding mass transit. It is a better option that will promote a greener future that is more walkable and breathable.

“Instead of spending billions of dollars for widening, we should invest it in mass transit. Investing in mass transit will reduce traffic, air pollution, and create more jobs for our economy. Instead of widening the NJ Turnpike in the Meadowlands, we can expand the Bergen Light Rail into Bergen County. Instead of widening the Garden State Parkway, we can finally build the Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex line. Instead of widening the NJ Turnpike in South Jersey, we can build the South Jersey Light Rail System,” said Tittel.

Governor Murphy goes on to say that, “We are a corridor state, we’re the densest state in the nation,” he said. “To be able to maximize that hand and at the same time do it in a responsible way — and I believe it is in a responsible way —that gives us a huge asset that we have heretofore not had for far too long.”

“Since New Jersey is a corridor state, we will be getting more vehicles coming through to pollute our state. We don’t want to keep encouraging more traffic from out of state. The Governor doesn’t get it, if you build it, they will come. Which means more cars, more bottlenecks, more pollution. This is the wrong project at the wrong place at the wrong time. People will be paying more to get stuck in traffic. These agencies pushed through this plan during a pandemic without public scrutiny. Hundreds of people testified against the plan but fell on deaf ears. Governor Murphy needs to understand that these highway widenings will determine our land use and greenhouse gas use in the state for decades to come,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

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