Weinstein Announces New Process
for Completion of Penns Neck Area EIS
Commissioner James Weinstein today announced that the New Jersey Department of Transportation would undertake a new, community-based approach as it begins the process of developing the Penns Neck Area environmental impact statement (EIS).
"The NJDOT is committed to taking an entirely fresh look at this project. Everything is on the table and we intend to proceed by bringing everyone who has a stake in this project's future to the table," Commissioner Weinstein said. "The difference here is that we are shifting the lead of this process to our environmental and public policy professionals, and using our engineering staff to provide the technical support."
"What we will attempt to do is develop the future of this project in way that is sensitive to the concerns of the local communities while still addressing an important need on a very congested section of the Route 1 corridor," the commissioner added.
To further the NJDOT's goals, Weinstein announced that the department has retained the services of Rutgers University, through its Transportation Policy Institute and the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, to act as objective facilitators to help manage and conduct the EIS.
Rutgers will specifically be charged with:
- Creating a project "roundtable" to help define, steer and manage the process.
- Reopening the EIS process for consideration of any and all strategies and alternatives.
- Fostering a high-quality, flexible public involvement process with opportunities for participation in a variety of formats.
- Emphasizing continuous, comprehensive and open communication between NJDOT, local officials, property owners, and interested groups and individuals.
- Focusing on consensus building with the assistance of professionals trained in public involvement, negotiation and conflict resolution, as well as transportation policy.
The department plans to begin the EIS process with a series of interviews with all the interested parties and stakeholders to get a better understanding of the issues to be addressed and the current sentiments of those likely to participate in the process. In addition, the process will include a series of smaller public "listening sessions," open houses and workshops.
Weinstein said this first phase of the process would take approximately six months to complete and will conclude with a report listing the conceptual strategies and alternatives (including a no-build alternative) that will be evaluated in the Draft EIS. Once the alternatives have been identified it is anticipated that the remainder of the EIS process will take 18 months to complete. The final EIS is submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, which will determine if the project can move forward.