OPINION: The Failure of Interchange 91
Editor’s Note: The following was originally spoken by the author, a resident of Brick, NJ at a recent meeting of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders during the public comment portion, in which citizens can address the board.
I hope that you [Ocean County] do not feel a sense of accomplishment that Interchange 91 is completed.
It is in fact a failure of your responsibility to protect communities impacted by dual Garden State Parkway projects.
It is a failure of your engineering department.
It is a failure of Paul Carpenter Associates, the company that performed the Sound Study. Paul Carpenter Associates refused to model the combined effects of the Interchange 91 and the Shoulder Widening project. This was required by NEPA regulations. You might feel that the NEPA Federal regulation is not applicable to these State highway projects but the New Jersey Turnpike Authority Executive Director Mrozek stated that the NJTA followed all Federal and State regulations during a public meeting.
You might also feel that Evergreen Woods Park homeowners should have made their concerns known at the inception of the Interchange 91 project.
We made the effort to attend that meeting.
The NJTA refused to attend a required stakeholders meeting at Evergreen Woods.
Your representatives did attend but refused to answer questions regarding the additional impact of the Shoulder Widening project.
When after considerable pressure the Turnpike Authority did relent to have a meeting to discuss the deplorable increase in noise, the Executive Director specifically refused to have homeowners attend.
Their myopic, self centered and adversarial stance interfered with finding an engineering solution either prior to project inception or post construction.
Their Shoulder Widening sound study failed to study Evergreen Woods either by design or intentionally.
In fact my repeated efforts via OPRA requests to ascertain which company performed the Shoulder Widening project sound study was met with what the NJTA does best erect road blocks.
You, my Ocean County political representatives and your partner the NJTA failed in your primary duty to protect and serve.
I have spoken during the public comment meeting portion here, at the NJTA and Brick Township to redress this situation to no avail.
What was forced upon Evergreen Woods was a cosmetic, propaganda and legal tactic.
A row of saplings were planted adjacent to the Garden State Parkway. In the two years that followed about 30 per cent have died and those that survived have not grown.
That the NJDOT specifically states is cosmetic and not a solution!
In return the NJTA demanded that individual homeowners would stop their efforts for actual sound mitigation. What was agreed to was a maneuver to strip away the individual homeowners collective resources represented by our homeowners association to hold the perpetrators of this environmentally unhealthy and property value reduction deception accountable.
You, and the NJTA have used time to erode public disapproval of your actions.
An excuse that you have used is the lack of a representative from Ocean County on the NJTA Board. Considering that NJTA decisions are made behind closed doors and public comments hold no value, the holding of NJTA meetings at various locations is nothing more than taking this circus on the road. A public relations ploy.
Your delay in proactively finding a solution for remediating the noise at Evergreen Woods displays your lack of commitment.
Not only will Evergreen Woods homeowners have to pay the hidden costs of an degraded environment and reduced property values but I have recently learned that we might have to pay $100,000 or more for a vinyl fence that will attempt to screen the Parkway and possibly direct exhaust pollution away from our homes, and will do little to reduce the noise level.
That’s right let the victims pay!
I have been told to move and that it is my fault for buying next to the Parkway.
The NJTA used deception to move traffic closer to my home by the creation of an auxiliary lane, no longer an exit ramp.
A miles long additional through lane. It moved the traffic closer, and the NJTA expanded the highway lanes.
Another deception was the panacea of quiet pavement. The NJTA being the devious group that they are, knew that this pavement loses its effectiveness in a short period of time and it does not reduce mechanical or exhaust noise. But how would the lay public know this not being highway engineers.
Lets not stop there!
What about the center median detention basin. It was not part of the environmental modeling.
Or how about the alleged 38 feet of shoulder clearing, in reality 38 feet per each side of the north and southbound lanes for a total of 152 feet of dense forest border.
That amount only becomes larger if the clear cutting for the detention basin is factored in.
You might think that I have strayed during my comments.
I have not.
Let’s use the same logic of ‘you knew it when you bought your home’. I bet that you would not dare to tell people who lost their homes to Super Storm Sandy that, or the people of Lakewood who knew they exceeded the capacity of their towns infrastructure.
No, only high profile groups get the public resources!
The impact from those combined Garden State Parkway projects by you and your partner the NJTA, and the way both public bodies circumvented regulations designed to protect the public from these wanton acts warrants an investigation.
But we both know that you operated under the umbrella of the NJTA and their immunity from the Attorney General.
You profess to serve the public.
Well to me that should mean all the people.
Let’s see if you will investigate your actions with respect to the two Garden State Parkway projects.
Let’s see if you will find a solution .