The saga of the Millstone Bypass continues.
Supporters of the bypass have been trying to rush the project toward approval in recent months, trying to work through the web of laws and regulations.
The Millstone Bypass, which would close the tree-lined section of Washington Road entering campus, has been planned for 20 years, said John Dourdarian, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
The bypass would also replace three traffic lights along Route 1. It would carry traffic into a newly built interchange with onand off-ramps. Less stops for Route 1 vehicles would improve the road's traffic flow, proponents say. But some fear that features of the project may increase traffic in the Borough.
"The Department is moving the project ahead as expeditiously as possible," said Dourdarian. "We expect to complete the (environmental) assessment next fall. If that's approved by the Federal Highway Administration, we could go to construction in mid-1999."
But, for now, the state is avoiding those environmental checks, opponents say. To receive federal funding, the state had to submit an air quality improvement plan to the Environmental Protection Agency.
On Dec. 1, however, the EPA ruled that such a plan had not been implemented. The agency then gave the state a 120-day grace period before freezing funds.
The state is now rushing the project in order to avoid that freeze, taking advantage of a clause in the federal highway code that would sidestep the EPA, said Richard Barrett, a member of the steering committee of Sensible Transportation Options Partnership.
"We are taking steps to make sure they follow the proper procedure," Barrett said. "We're not against the Millstone Bypass. We're against certain parts of the plan."
Many Borough residents worry that the bypass would route more traffic toward some residential areas, he said. Also, some regret that the entrance into Princeton would not lead past the elm trees of Washington Road. In addition, Barrett said he was concerned about the direct access to the Turnpike.
Answering STOP concerns, Dourdarian said the Department will work with the community. "There is ample opportunity for public input," he said.
In the past, the University has supported the project. Construction of the Millstone Bypass would set aside acres of University-owned land not bisected by a high-traffic Washington Road. University officials have said there is a possibility that the land might be used for construction or campus expansion in the distant future.