KNOWLTON TWP., Pa. - A Warren County mayor said the New Jersey Department of Transportation retaliated after she complained about a rock wall dubbed "the Jurassic Park fence."
Knowlton Township Mayor Adele Starrs said the New Jersey Department of Transportation pulled its support for a proposed scenic byway in 2018 after she and others made a fuss about a proposed rock wall mitigation project through the Delaware Water Gap.
The state said the rock wall, a $30 million 60-foot metal and concrete fence, would stop rocks from sliding onto I-80. Starrs and others say the wall will ruin the landscape and discourage visitors from coming.
Mayor Starrs said after she went to the media with concerns about the rock wall in 2018, the NJDOT stopped supporting the scenic byway project.
In an email sent to Knowlton Township's Environmental Committee shared with 69 News, a DOT employee writes a byway can't be used to stop the rock wall project and it is in the best interest to wait to process any completed application after any present issues are resolved.
"It's retaliation. There's no question in my mind that it's retaliation," Starrs said.
Starrs said she's speaking out about this now after recently learning about the email exchange. She said the NJDOT supported the scenic byway application for three years before issues with the rock wall arose.
"When we first approached them [NJDOT] with this [scenic byway proposal] they said 'oh yes, for years we have wanted this area to be a scenic byway.' We said great. We started working with them," Starrs said.
In a statement to 69 News, the NJDOT wrote in part that it does not process Scenic Byway applications in areas where there are active projects in design or construction. In 2018, the applicants were notified that this application, which was not complete, would be placed on hold.
"If that were the truth, then why did they help us for three years when they knew this project was going on at the same time," Starrs said.