Issue 373 July 8, 2002
For History of Sprawl, Look to Highways 

In a recent series, the Star-Ledger explored the way that highways pave the way for sprawl development around New Jersey. Using Schley Mountain’s experience as a metaphor for what is happening all over the state, the paper wrote, “First came the roads. New interstate highways drew corporations, then new residents...Roads that not long ago offered quick, high-speed commutes breed maddening daily traffic jams.” 

According to the Ledger, the construction of I-78 was the catalyst for development-related change in the character of Bedminster and nearby communities. It was first proposed in the 1950’s as an east-west spur of the Turnpike linking NYC to Pennsylvania, and reached I-287 in Bedminster in 1968. 

The arrival of the highways made development in the area attractive to business and homebuyers and weakened municipal efforts to control growth. In a 1980’s case, a state court threw out a Bedminster zoning law to make way for a large-scale housing development. Judge B. Thomas Leahy said the construction of highways had put the town in the “path of inevitable future of residential, commercial and industrial demand and growth.” 

Traffic in the area has ballooned. According to the Dept. of Transportation, daily traffic on I-78 through Bedminster increased from 13,160 daily vehicles in 1968 to 79,310 in 2000. Office park development has also led to choking congestion in the neighboring 202/206 corridor. 

The Star-Ledger series spotlighted the need for state leadership in controlling growth.  In editorials associated with the series, the paper urged the McGreevey administration to take specific actions to curb highway development and sprawl. The paper also noted the high cost of new highways – singling out the $350 million Route 92 project. 

“The goal must be to transform the state plan from a mere statement of principle to a force for real change,” the paper wrote. “The initiative has to come from the top. Governor James E. McGreevey has pledged to help stop sprawl.  He has created a ‘smart-growth policy council’ of state leaders to ensure that the Transportation and Treasury departments and other agencies work in line with the principles of the state plan....These were strong steps forward.  Now the Governor must go farther.” 

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Related Articles and Links

McGreevey Won't Commit to Route 92 Position (July 1, 2002)

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