Senator Jeff Van Drew yesterday sent a letter to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority expressing concern that the authority gave incorrect information to the public regarding the purpose of a project that has resulted in mass tree removal along the Garden State Parkway in Atlantic County.
A recent news report revealed that after the Turnpike Authority claimed for months that tree clearing along the Parkway was not tied to a $900 million widening project, the authority had claimed the two projects are linked.
The Senator, on behalf of himself and his legislative colleagues, Assemblyman Matt Milam and Assemblyman Nelson Albano (all D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic), called for the authority to hold information sessions as soon as possible to explain to residents the purpose, as well as the full scope and cost of the project. He also requested that Turnpike Authority Executive Director Veronique Hakim immediately provide him with:
- A full financial accounting of the tree-clearing project, including the cost of overcutting trees and the amount to be expended for corrective actions to include reforestation;
- A timetable for the project, to include a separate timeline for corrective actions needed to restore foliage and trees in overcut areas.
Senator Van Drew added that this new development came less than a week after he sent a letter to Executive Director Hakim expressing concerns the 1st District legislators had regarding the tree removal and the lack of public input sought, but also indicating they understood the need for increased public safety – the authority’s stated reason for the project.
“I have expressed to you that I believe the amount of tree clearing is excessive and the process overly aggressive. I’ve said I am extremely concerned about the project because of the harm it will cause to the environment, the aesthetic appearance of the Garden State Parkway and to the public, whose taxpayer dollars will be used to finance it. I am still deeply concerned about these issues,” wrote Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “But the inconsistent information that has been disseminated to tax and toll payers is extremely disturbing. Moreover, this new information is troublesome because some of the areas being cleared are not in the current plans for the widening project; therefore, it appears taxpayer dollars are being used for overcutting and will have to be used to correct it.”