Hillsborough officials told bypass project on schedule

By:Roger Alvarado
   Mayor Steven Sireci and Committeeman Tony Gwiazdowski believe that construction of the Route 206 Bypass is on schedule following a meeting with one of Gov. James McGreevey’s top aides on the proposed bypass.
   Mayor Sireci and Mr. Gwiazdowski met with Chief of Staff James Fox on Feb. 19 to discuss the current status of the project.
   "Mr. Fox and the transportation commissioner’s chief of staff have told us that the project is going forward as has been planned," Mayor Sireci said. "The state continues to acquire right of way and deal with utilities."
   The meeting was arranged by Assemblyman Peter Biondi (R-Somerset) in order to bring Trenton’s attention that funding for the bypass is an "absolute imperative," Mayor Sireci has said.
   According to Mayor Sireci, newspaper stories that have said that the state is now looking to make cutbacks and making plans over the short term to not fund the bypass are erroneous.
   "The chief of staff even had the transportation commissioner’s chief of staff on the speaker phone with us to review the plans with us," Mayor Sireci said.
   Despite the assurances, former Committeewoman Sonya Martin remained skeptical and said the township needs to do a "great deal more lobbying" because the project is "too vital for us."
   "We need to put their feet to the fire," Ms. Martin said at Tuesday’s Township Committee meeting. "With all the financial problems in Trenton we need to make sure this is once again a high state priority."
   Both Mayor Sireci and Committeeman Gwiazdowski said they will remain on top of state officials to ensure they "live up to their commitments to Hillsborough."
   The bypass is a limited-access road planned to remove traffic from the section of Route 206 between Old Somerville Road and Township Line Road at the north end of Montgomery.
   At a July 1999 information meeting in Hillsborough, state transportation officials proposed spending $32 million to also widen the road between Brown Avenue and Old Somerville Road, in addition to $72 million to complete the bypass.
   But recent budget estimates indicate the state’s Transportation Trust Fund may be bankrupt within two years, when construction on the bypass is scheduled to begin.