PRINCETON: Town officials ponder defying Gov. Christie to finish Valley Road reconstruction

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton officials have to decide whether or not to complete the reconstruction of Valley Road at the risk of defying Gov. Chris Christie’s shutdown order for projects getting funding from the depleted Transportation Trust Fund, Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday.
“There’s risks to defying the order and there’s risks to delaying the project,” she told reporters at her press conference in the afternoon.
She said the final layer of paving is the last piece of work that needs to be done. “So if we don’t do that and wait until there’s the money, which I assume would be in the spring when we’d be able to act on it,” she said, “we risk there being damage to the subsurface of the road, which would be left exposed especially if we have a really harsh winter.”
She said a delay also means running the risk of escalating labor and asphalt costs, and storm water problems. On the other hand, she said defying the governor’s order means potentially losing out on the money the town expects from Trenton.
The town is due around $70,000 from the Christie administration, having already received some $212,000 from the state for Valley Road.
“We’re, of course, one of hundreds of municipalities that are being put in this situation,” she said. “It’s a bad predicament.”
She estimated there is about seven to eight weeks left in the year when work can be finished, for a project that was due to be completed in August.
Town engineer Deanna Stockton was scheduled to report on the matter at the council meeting Monday. Officials will then discuss the matter, possibly even voting to defy the governor’s order.
Council President Lance Liverman, who attended the mayor’s press conference, said his preference would be to do “whatever is a cost-saving for the town.”
Mercer County officials have filed a notice of claim, a legal first step toward suing the state, over a shutdown order that is delaying road and bridge projects. County Executive Brian M. Hughes said last week the county took that step because it believed the state “breached its contractual obligations” by not providing the money.
Asked if her town was considering a similar step, Mayor Lempert said she planned to ask the governing body at tonight’s meeting whether Princeton wanted to “sign on to the county’s action in some way.”
“I’m not sure what our options would be,” she said. 