History Uncovered, The Pinelands Was Almost Home To Mega Airport
In the 1950s, with air travel booming, there a movement to add another airport to our region...and a new city with 250,000 residents. These additions would have changed the landscape of the Jersey Shore and South Jersey drastically. Frankly, it kind of excited me to think what might have been.
The New Jersey Pinelands covers over 1,400 square miles and sits directly in the middle of "Megalopolis", an area going from Virginia to New Hampshire. In the 50s, this area was home to roughly 40 million Americans. As more of these people changed their means of travel from busses and trains and switched to planes, air travel became crowded. The Port Authority (NY & NJ) "determined that a fourth intercontinental airport was needed in its metropolitan region in order to manage the projected growth of air traffic in the coming years." The solution? Create an airport in the Pinelands, of course.
In November of 1963, Herbert Smith Associates presented a report "The New Jersey Pinelands; The Framework for Planning." They were a planning firm that conducted a big survey to figure out how this might work. Page after page detailed big picture concepts, challenges, and opportunities. The two biggest pieces were the airport and the residential city.
The "Supersonic Jetport" would have been huge, 4x the size of Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia airports put together and would have spanned 50 square miles and have been located just west of Stafford. At the time the estimated cost of the project was $106 million. In today's dollars, that's close to a $1 billion project. Not cheap. Want a glimpse, keep on reading...
The "New City" was imagined as a modern city with lakes, golf courses, parks, and long and curving aesthetically pleasing roads. It would have been 11 miles from the Jetport, in the Forked River area, and featured bridges and underpasses to avoid crossing streets. The initial population was thought to be over 100,000 and grow to about 200,000. In total, the projections put the total Pinelands population growth from 88,000 in 1960 to over 400,000 by 2010. Can you imagine that in-between Lacey, Waretown, and Barnegat?
When you've got a massive airport and a major city, what comes next? Tourists, yes. Our beaches are already crowded in the summer but can you imagine? How about a football stadium? Maybe the Jets or Giants would have ended up here? Who knows?
So, how come they're both not built and operating now? Well, there is an airport in the general area. That's Coyle Field, which is very small. But, yes. It never came to be. What happened? Opposition. The Pineland Preservation Alliance shares that the Pine Barron Conservationists opposed the idea and helped generate more opposition amongst the public. The idea died when New Jersey Governor William T. Cahill was voted in as Governor in 1970 and he wanted nothing to do with a jetport, anywhere in New Jersey.
Check out some diplays from the Pinelands Region Future Development Plan at the link here.