Latest Louis Berger News
Apr 6, 2021
New Jersey Turnpike, seen here at Exit 1 interchange, would have lane added for 34 miles through Exit 4, a $1B program opposed by state environmental advocatesPhoto: Louis Berger Group/WSP April 5, 2021 A $48-million contract awarded March 23 to AECOM to study environmental impacts of widening 34 miles of the most rural southern part of the 117.2-mile New Jersey Turnpike has upset state environmental activists, although the state says any construction remains at least five years off. The contract is the latest step in the overall $1.1-billion turnpike expansion plan outlined last year that focuses on roadway upgrades of the two-lane in each direction stretch between exits 1 and 4 through Camden County. However, it also renewed criticism from advocates who say the project will boost greenhouse-gas emissions at a time when the state is investing heavily in cleaner energy and other strategies to reduce them. AECOM was chosen to do preliminary work on the widening, among 14 projects under the $24-billion capital program that also would the Garden State Parkway. AECOM did not respond to a request for comment. Transportation officials say public hearings have yet to be scheduled. Tom Feeney, a spokesman for the NJ Turnpike Authority, says it’s too early to tell whether adding a new lane in each direction would increase emissions, with impacts needing to be studied. Also on the drawing board is a plan to double lanes from two to four in both directions on a three-mile turnpike section crossing Newark Bay closer to New York City, which would involve replacement or widening of three bridges and construction of a fourth bridge, estimated to cost $3.3 billion. While the plan claims to ease traffic congestion, environmentalists say it doesn’t mesh with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s Energy Master Plan. The authority also wants to widen 27 miles of the Garden State Parkway between interchanges 98 and 125 from five or six lanes to six or seven lanes in each direction at a cost of $1.35 billion. Another project would widen 12 miles of the parkway from interchanges 142 to 154 from four lanes to six in each direction at a cost of $2.5 billion. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, says the turnpike in south Jersey should not be widened because it would increase traffic and create even more lengthy southbound backups at the Delaware Memorial Bridge in Salem County. “Once you widen the highways, it’s a temporary fix until there’s more traffic. And there’s going to be more traffic," he said. "You’ve got I-295 and you’ve got Route 130 and everything else coming together into the bridge. It’s the same size road at the bridge, there’s just going to be more traffic.” Tittel said he favors more focus on light rail and electric buses. “At end of the day, they are just adding and widening, so the other concern is that we are going to accelerate farmlands to warehouses, create sprawl and add more trucks," he said. "The interstates in New Jersey were supposed to be a thru-way, but they keep building interchanges that slow down traffic.” Tittel expects AECOM to look at drainage, soil conditions and other environmental factors in the study but he’s not optimistic about the results. Also, on March 25 in Camden County, the New Jersey Dept. of Transportation began investigating the collapse of a newly built retaining wall on north-south I-295 that is part of the $900-million Direct Connection project to straighten out a convoluted interchange with east-west Route 42 and /Interstate-76 between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. The project is set for completion in 2027. The collapse occurred on a stretch of I-295 still under construction, with one lane remaining closed, and the wall set for demolition. The cause still is unknown and under investigation by the state DOT.