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DEP Seeks Public Comment on Railroad Avenue Bypass Road

State soliciting opinions by Feb. 10 prior to issuing environmental approval to Lacey Township

The state Department of Environmental Protection is calling for public comment before issuing a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) permit for the proposed Railroad Avenue connector road.

“This is one step in the permitting process,” Mayor Mark Dykoff said. “We’re still waiting on final approval.”

A letter from the township regarding approval states the new public road would run through the Special Water Resource Protection Area but “the proposed project will not pose a threat to the environment, or public health, safety and welfare.”

The DEP proposes to grant a hardship waiver for encroachment for the protection area and has determined that storm water quality standards will be met, the letter says. The state department is seeking public comment prior to issuing the permit.

“The hardship was not created by any action or inaction of the applicant or its agents,” the letter says. “The applicant seeks to resolve a local traffic problem. The proposed project is the only prudent and feasible alignment to resolve the problem.”

Residents are given a 30-day period to comment on the issue, DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said. Once the comments are compiled, the DEP will prepare a comment response document, which will eventually lead to a final determination.

The debate of building a bypass road along the old Central Railroad of New Jersey has been in the planning stages for more than a decade.

“If and when we receive the permit, we’re going to look into it,” Dykoff said. “We did bond a significant amount of money.”

Municipal Clerk and Township Administrator Veronica Laureigh envisions the road to serve as an alternate for Route 9 and bypass the commercial arteries of Lacey Township, she previously said.

According to Laureigh, there would be no residential traffic coming to the new road. There would be a north and south lane from Lacey Road by the Forked River Elementary School heading north to South Street. When the road passes Hebrew Park it would run parallel to Warren Avenue and come out to Bay Way. 

The DEP reached a settlement agreement with the township that could result in the issuance of permits, Ragonese said.

Lacey was originally denied the CAFRA permit because the DEP questioned the plans for stormwater control and buffers. The township filed an appeal and came back with a revised application addressing the deficiencies.

Modifications include a stormwater control system utilizing a vegetative filter; vegetative buffers between the road and residential and commercial properties, and a minimum of a 5-foot buffer between the bypass road and the planned recreational trail.

“Based on their submission, they complied with the requirements of DEP rules and we reached an agreement,” Ragonese said. “This triggers the 30-day comment period.”

Resident Lucy Wilson encourages those who received a registered letter from the township to voice their opinions.

“Read it carefully and if you are concerned, please write or phone the person listed in the final paragraph of the notification,” she said in an e-mail. “This action would effectively pave over our proposed linear park, which the Rail-Trail people have been attempting to preserve for many years.”

Wilson and her husband have been committed “protectors of the land” since 1984. “We both felt that preserving this linear park was important,” she said.

There are dangers associated with building a road and a trail on limited space and in such close proximity to an elementary school, she said.

Although the DEP will be considering public comment, the decision is primarily based on environmental issues, Ragonese said.

“Whether there’s a local sentiment about a path or proposed linear park, that has to be a local government decision,” he said. “[The township] came to us with a permit request on environmental issues. That’s our role there.”

Written comments regarding the proposed hardship exception can be sent to Charles Welch, Supervisor of the Land Use Regulation Program, P.O. Box 439, Trenton, NJ 08625 or by telephone at 609-777-0454. All comments must be received by Friday, Feb. 10.

‘Huge Mistake?’

To move forward on the project during these fiscal times “would be a huge mistake,” Committeeman Gary Quinn told Patch in January 2011.

The township has estimated the project to cost $3.2 million while an independent analysis paid for by the Lacey Township Rail-Trail Committee revealed that the project would cost between $14 million and $24 million.

However, Quinn still hopes to move forward with part of the project. He would like to build the section from Sunrise Boulevard to Lacey Road. This part of the project would help residents get across town, to the schools, and relieve traffic from Saint Pius the 10th Parish.

"That section makes all the sense in the world," Quinn said. Completing a portion of the project would also help determine if the rest of the project would be worth it, he said.

The township bonded for approximately $3 million in 2006, Dykoff said. So far, the township has paid for engineering, design and permitting fees, which leaves $2.148 million.

“Economic times change,” Dykoff said. “The money that’s left on the bond definitely would not be enough to build the entire road. If we could do a portion, that is something we would definitely look into and I would be in favor of.”

Dykoff points out that residents showed their support for the construction of the road in a referendum vote in 2006. Out of more than 17,000 registered voters, 9,259 came out to the polls; 5,742 favored the roadway and 3,628 opposed.

“There are people who are in favor of it and people opposed to it,” he said. “Unfortunately you can’t make everyone happy. I still speak to people and people that I speak to are in favor of building the road."

The Lacey Township Rail-Trail Committee has been fighting the proposed road for years.

"The project never has been able to meet the state regulations, as evidenced by two former NJDEP denials," Donna Bahrle of the Rail-Trail said. "This settlement is a politically motivated gift and will not stand up as a legitimate approval in court."

The traffic issues in Lacey Township revolve around the intersection of Route 9 and Lacey Road, which is set to be , Bahrle said.

"This intersection improvement has been engineered, planned and endorsed by the NJDOT (Department of Transportation) to alleviate the bottlenecks that now exist on this section of Route 9," she said. "The township has never produced any substantiated proof that the bypass road (as the township calls it) would alleviate any traffic on Route 9."

The state DEP denied the township CAFRA approval in 2006 and 2010 citing that the roadway would not significantly alleviate Route 9 traffic, Bahrle said.

"As a taxpayer of Lacey Township, I am highly offended that the township has continued to pursue this project after two NJDEP permit denials," she said.

The township has spent nearly $1 million in engineering and legal fees in attempt to reach a settlement with the DEP, Bahrle said.

"[The call for public comment] is a final opportunity for interested parties who oppose the project for any reason, such as a waste of taxpayers’ money, pedestrian safety issues, environmental protection, to let the NJ DEP know that this is a poor project that is not wanted or needed in the township," she said.

The letter announcing the DEP's intent to issue a permit is attached to this article as a PDF.

For more information on the rail-trail, read

Jack Mehoff January 21, 2012 at 03:29 PM
but Steve it will allow the republicon machine to build more houses on the land locked property behind the shop rite for the friends and family plan members
Ron Paul January 21, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Jacks 100% right, which I wonder who Jack Is??? Anyway you bet your Ass Quinn starts a project on that road before the pavements cool!! He wont be alone either its another scam and DPW and MUA will install all the amenities to do it. And the voters will vote them back in to charge the taxpayers for it. POLITICS WORKS BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Enjoy your new Taxes and water bills.Dummies.
John smith January 21, 2012 at 03:58 PM
@patricia doyle, perhaps there should be a referendum question as to wether or not have another referendum.I do not believe that the existing council members will ever arrive at a consensus on this issue. The third party idea is a good one, but the unhappy people that do not get their way will then cry foul as to the " objectivity" of the sixth voice and we're back to square one. Should there be a referendum with questions authored by persons on either side of the issue and the voters can then choose the question? Pardon me if I sound facetious, but my point is that because of and personal and political motivations (on either side), this controversy will live on far past the foreseeable future, and there will be residents dissatisfied with the outcome. By and large, I agree with you that the bike path and road are not necessary and problematic, but I'm not sold on the argument that connecting the Sunrise Boulevard extension to Lacey Road is a bad idea. What are your thoughts on this? I would like to thank you for civil and intelligent response. There are many that visit here that could learn a lot from you.
Jack Mehoff January 21, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Jack is a guy who listens to what they say and can see through the bs you know kinda like the road being deemed a hardship a hardship is the republicons on the tc who continue to want to spend money would it not make monetary sense for the town since it waited this long to see if rt 9 and Lacey rd would improve with the Dot project or will Quinn and the folks who own the land locked land need to hurry before the pineys wake up you decide I know the anwer
seaside pete January 21, 2012 at 07:29 PM
gb you couldnt have said it better tim o connor is a creep. the one and only time this recently widowed woman got up to the mike at the town meeting to plead with the cronies up there not to tear down her house she was in tears after telling of how her and her husband planned to not just make it a summer home for them but their year round home. in tears she broke down when telling how hard it was to say goodbye to her husband after his cancer. reliving it again she left the meeting in tears. tim o connor then got up with a grin on his face and said "well i guess she had to leave early because she has a long ride home. too bad i wanted to debate her on it" later on the patch when that event was brought up he commented 'get out the violins" . on another article in the patch in the past few days there was an article about a karate teacher giving little kids lessons to prevent child abduction. on that thread and you can still see it o connor of course starts off with his own resume "i am a student of this teacher' . i said i would donate $100 towards fingerprinting kits for kids if o connor would show off his karate skills and spar me for a round or two.(and i,m over 50 and i admit i,m out of shape) o connor thanks to elaine pinat an inexperienced editor had the offer deleted . if you look at o connor's comment history you will find his ode of love to this 22 yr old editor "elaine is my inspiration and a breath of fresh air" . no wonder elaine lets him write whatever he wants.

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