Sullivan, Foley and Leonard. The opinion of the court was delivered by Sullivan, S.j.a.d.
[101 NJSuper Page 591] This is an appeal under R.R. 4:88-8 from the recommendation of the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, State of New Jersey,
through his highway engineer, of a proposed route alignment for Interstate Highway 95 through, inter alia, the three aggrieved municipalities of Hopewell Township, Franklin Township, and Piscataway Township.
Interstate Highway 95 is a component of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways as established by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. It enters New Jersey from the south at a point on the Delaware River, and leaves the State to the north via the George Washington Bridge. Under the Federal Act, the route alignment through a particular state shall be made by the highway department of that state, subject to the approval of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads.
In 1965, the New Jersey State Highway Department commissioned an engineering firm to study the various possible routes of 1-95 through a corridor of land in the central part of the State, roughly bounded by the Reading Railroad right of way and U.S. Route 1. The corridor extends from Scotch Road in Hopewell Township to Route 287 in South Plainfield, and is slightly more than 30 miles long.
This engineering firm undertook an exhaustive analysis of the possible route alignments through this corridor, considering data ranging from soil classification to demographic projections. This location study resulted in the selection of 34 possible routes, two of which were designated by the firm as its first and second choices respectively.
A series of public screenings of the proposed alignments was held, with residents of affected municipalities attending in their individual and representative capacities. The first of these was a pre-hearing meeting held in January of 1966 at which a presentation of the proposed route and possible alternative routes was made. Present at this gathering were the Highway Commissioner and members of the retained engineering firm. Some 37 speakers were heard. Others in attendance numbered 126, including official representatives from the New Jersey State Assembly, Counties of Mercer, Somerset and Middlesex and their respective planning
boards, Ewing Township, Lawrence Township, Borough of Pennington, Hopewell Borough, Princeton Township, Hillsborough Township, Montgomery Township, Borough of Rocky Hill, Millstone, Borough of South Plainfield, Rutgers University, Federal Bureau of Public Roads, Green Brook Township, New Jersey Department of Conservation and Economic Development and the Princeton 1-95 Committee. Representing appellant Hopewell Township were four of its committeemen, the township attorney, its planning consultant and a member of its planning board. Representing Franklin Township were its Mayor, Town Administrator, five councilmen, the chairman of its planning board and one planning board member and the vice-president of its Board of Education. Appellant Piscataway Township was represented by its Mayor, three committeemen, the township engineer, the chairman of its planning board, the secretary and a member of the planning board.
In May of 1966, a public hearing on the proposed alignment was held, at which time the possible alternate routes were again discussed. Some 800 persons were in attendance at the day long meeting. Slides and aerial photographs were exhibited to the audience, and the information depicted thereon was explained. Individual residents and official representatives of the affected municipalities expressed their views on and objections to the location of the proposed alignment. At the hearing, the planning boards of Mercer and Somerset Counties expressed their general approval of this alignment, while the Middlesex County planning board expressed no opinion for or against the proposed route.
A third meeting was held on September 1, 1966, this time at the behest of Franklin, Piscataway, and South Plainfield Townships. Officials of these municipalities were given the opportunity to question the State highway engineer and members of the retained engineering firm as to the ramifications of the proposed route alignment.
On June 1, 1967, the State highway engineer submitted his recommendation of a route ...