Posts Tagged ‘highway’

Scenic byway designation sought for Route 78

towns banding together, pushing for designation

A somewhat shorter, but still scenic, stretch of Route 78 in northwest New Jersey has been proposed for designation as a scenic byway. A dozen towns in Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset counties joined forces last month, applying with the state Department of Transportation for the interstate corridor to be declared a “New Jersey Historic and Scenic Byway.”

Towns in Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset counties have applied to have part of Route 78 declared a ‘New Jersey Historic and Scenic Byway.’ But three other towns initially proposed as part of the byway — Alpha, Phillipsburg and Bridgewater — opted not to take part, reducing the 29-mile scenic swath originally envisioned to about 24 miles.

One Alpha councilman said he voted against joining partly be cause it would eliminate billboards proposed for town-owned land. Alpha, in Warren County, currently receives between $1,000 and $2,000 per month rent for a billboard on property near the Pennsylvania border. Other billboards also are proposed for Alpha’s land, which includes industrial and farm land, Councilman Harry Zikas Jr. said.

“Those billboards would be so out of the way they wouldn’t bother anyone in town, and we’d be able to make the profit,” Zikas said. “We’re looking to get revenue any which way we can. Had we joined the proposal, those billboards would not be permitted.” The scenic byway proposal was started last spring, led by Lebanon Borough Mayor Mark Paradis. He said the idea was to preserve the scenic beauty of the corridor, which runs through mountains, forests and farmland, and passes by picturesque small towns. The roadway has history as well: It began as a Native American trade route, grew into a local road, and in 1917 be came one of New Jersey’s first 15 state highways.

“It’s a remarkable east-west corridor that has some significant history to it, and we feel that it’s important for people to realize that and for us to preserve it,” Paradis said. Scenic byway designation also means no off-premises signs can be built that are “visible to any highway or portion of a highway designated as a scenic byway, or … nominated for designation,” according to the state Department of Transportation.

Lebanon Borough is involved in a legal tussle with an outdoor ad vertising company, after a proposed billboard was turned down by the planning board last summer. The mayor said scenic byway designation was not sought simply as a way to block billboards, however. “There is some protection from billboards, but that’s really not the real reason we’re doing this,” he said. “We feel this corridor is something that has a story to tell.” As far as the other towns’ reluc tance to take part, Paradis said, “we’re not trying to tell them what to do. “We understand it’s an economic (matter),” he said of Alpha’s billboard revenue. “I still feel Alpha is a viable partner in working with us.”