In January 1999, the NJTA filed a Section 404 permit with the Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of the NJ 92 Turnpike Extension. From the New Jersey Turnpike Authority press release:
"In a continuing effort to reduce the environmental impact of this regional highway project, the engineering design has been modified so that the permanent wetlands impact has been reduced from 18.4 to 14.4 acres," said Edward Gross, Executive Director of the Turnpike Authority. "The two primary design modifications are a reduction in the width of the median through the Devil's Brook forested wetlands area and the elimination of an "official use only" grade-separated U-turn. The balance of the application is consistent with the numerous documents previously submitted to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection," said Gross.
"Notwithstanding the desirability for the wider median and U-turn for greater road safety, the importance of Route 92 to the improvement of regional transportation in central New Jersey by diverting through truck and passenger car traffic from US 1 and local roadways to the New Jersey Turnpike and reducing traffic congestion on local roadways has led the Authority to provide further design modifications to reduce permanent wetlands impacts," said the Authority's Chairman Frank X. McDermott. "We hope that this effort will produce the regulatory permits from both the Army Corps and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; thus, allowing the construction of this limited access highway," concluded McDermott.
Peter Samuel, publisher of the monthly Tolls Roads Newsletter, said the following about the NJ 92 project:
Both state and local governments support this project. This project gathered wide political support, because it would channel traffic from an overcrowded US 1 onto the New Jersey Turnpike going north-south. The Route 92 spur could be open today. But repeated calls for more studies, led by the EPA and its allies, have delayed the project by four or five years.
In February 2000, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered the NJTA to conduct an environmental impact study (EIS) on the proposed NJ 92 Turnpike Extension. The study, which could take up to two years to complete and cost as much as $5 million, will be used to help the Corps of Engineers reach a final decision on whether to grant the Turnpike Authority a permit to construct the road. Opponents hailed this decision in the belief that the EIS will support their contention that the road is "unnecessary," "an environmental hazard" and "a private driveway to the Forrestal Center" (a shopping and office complex in Plainsboro).
Four months later, the Corps held a "scoping meeting" to determine which issues needed to be taken into account when drafting the new EIS. Public comments were taken from both sides of the issue, but at the meeting, it was a debate between pro-92 forces in Plainsboro and anti-92 forces in South Brunswick. The Corps does not intend to take public comment on the merits of the Route 92 project until the EIS is completed.
Around this time, an editorial in News 12-New Jersey suggested establishing four-lane Middlesex CR 522, not the NJ 92 Turnpike Extension, as the primary east-west route through the area. However, Edward Gross, the executive director of the NJTA, explained why the use of Middlesex CR 522 would not be such a good idea as follows:
The availability of Route 522 was included in the Route 92 study. By 2015, Route 92 will serve 32,000 vehicles per day (AADT), relieving substantial congestion on local roads. Route 522 is a local service road built in a residential area, while Route 92 is designed as a high-speed, limited-access highway. The local road could accommodate only 1,500 of the 32,000 vehicles expected to use Route 92. For Route 522 to replace Route 92 and maintain an acceptable level of service, it would need to be expanded from four to six lanes and connected to the New Jersey Turnpike. This would severely impact valuable wetlands and many homes. Finally, the New Jersey Motor Truck Association has publicly supported Route 92 and its proposed tolls.
Upon completion, officials predicted that NJ 92 would handle as much as 35,000 vehicles per day (AADT).
A LAST-DITCH EFFORT FAILS: In December 2003, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the draft environmental impact statement for the NJ 92 project, but state and Federal environmental agencies still disagree on whether permits should be issued to fill in wetlands for the route. Hearings on the Corps' decision were held in May 2004 before a hostile public.
In November 2005, the NJTA reallocated all but $6.5 million for NJ 92 to widening projects along the New Jersey Turnpike in central and southern New Jersey, effectively dashing hopes for the new highway. The Corps' final environmental impact statement in October 2006 came with no recommended alternative despite an exhaustive review of all possible alternatives, leaving the future of NJ 92 in Limbo. The final nail in the coffin came on December 1, 2006, when the NJTA formally cancelled plans for NJ 92 and withdrew environmental permits for the project.
From 1992 through 2006, the NJTA spent more than $30 million on engineering and environmental studies, as well as on public hearings, for NJ 92. During this period, the cost of NJ 92 had risen by one-third to $400 million.