More tree cutting will be done along the Garden State Parkway for a widening project, but the toll road's operating agency says it will involve only a small area to accommodate construction of some stormwater basins. In 2011, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority faced fierce criticism from the public and elected officials for a massive tree-cutting to make room for the early stages of the parkway's $900 million widening from Ocean County to Atlantic County.

At that time, oak, maple, cedar and pine trees were chopped down from milepost 30 in Somers Point to milepost 64.5 in Stafford Township. Critics began calling the road the "Garden State Paveway" to express their anger over the loss of so many trees.

As the widening project enters its next phase this year, an additional 3.9 acres of trees will be cut down in Atlantic County for construction of storm-water basins. The trees will be removed from the parkway median near milepost 44 in Galloway Township, turnpike authority spokesman Tom Feeney said.

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Feeney did not know the number of trees that will be cut down within the 3.9 acres, but he characterized the area as being relatively small.

"Just by way of comparison, 3.9 acres are being removed to accommodate storm-water basins that the turnpike authority is required to build. The project that caused so much controversy in Atlantic County a few years ago involved 250 acres," Feeney said in an email about the tree cutting.

Feeney noted that the parkway will work with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on plans "to mitigate for the loss of those trees" based on the number of acres that are affected.

"There is no accounting of individual trees and bushes," he said.

Under the New Jersey No Net Loss Reforestation Act, the turnpike authority is required to plant an acre of trees for every acre it removes. If there is no room on the authority's property to replant the trees, the agency instead will make pay the DEP to compensate for the loss. The DEP, in turn, would use the money to plant new trees in other locations, Feeney explained.

"The NJTA is always careful not to take down more trees than necessary," he said.

The widening's next phase involves construction of a third lane in each direction between mileposts 38 and 48 through the Atlantic County communities of Port Republic, Galloway Township and Egg Harbor Township. Work is scheduled to begin by the third quarter of 2014, with completion of different parts of the project in 2016 and 2017.

Parkway officials said during a Dec. 5 public hearing on the project that the widening will create smoother traffic flow and cut down on the number of accidents on a stretch of road that becomes congested during the summer tourist rush to the Jersey Shore.

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