Road Construction Not an Issue for Memorial Day Weekend [SERIES]
This is the second story in a five-day series titled, Revisiting the Jersey Shore After Sandy. In Part II we examine how Sandy, construction or back-ups might affect your ride “down the Shore.”
As you pack up the family, cooler and beach supplies into the car, you can expect the roads to be filled with fellow travelers, but the New Jersey Department of Transportation says road construction or storm damage shouldn't slow you down.
While Sandy initially covered major shore roads like Routes 35, 72, and 9 in sand or debris, and in some cases left them completely impassable, things are radically different seven months later.
Joe Dee, Communications Director for the NJ DOT, says all lanes are open and construction won't be an issue, especially with the $215 million rebuild of 12.5 miles of Route 35 from Bay Head to Long Beach Island.
"They won't have any impact on 35 until after Labor Day," says Dee, noting the first phase of the project was re-organized to prevent the road from being slowed down.
"It's very important to keep traffic flowing during the heavy summer season, and by working with the local officials and tweaking the sequence of the work, we're able to keep it open throughout the summer."
Instead of doing construction on the main road in half-mile intervals, Dee says crews will be working doing repairs and replacements of pump stations and pipe systems- all on side streets.
Reorganizing the project's first phase isn't expected to change its finish; the DOT expects the project to still be completed before Memorial Day 2014.
The additional two phases of the project are going out to bid currently, and will do construction beyond Island Beach State Park. Dee notes work should state by late summer, nearly at the end of the season, will take place in areas that are already multi-lane. That project is expected to finish in summer 2015.
Work is being done on Route 72 and the Manahawkin Bay Bridge that leads to Long Beach Island.
Dee says work is starting now and will build a new span alongside the current bridge, which, one completed will have traffic re-routed there while the older bridge gets rehabilitated.
Currently, the bridge has four lanes, once the new bridge is completed there will still be four lanes, however, each span will have two lanes both going either east or west along with two shoulders and paths for walking and biking.
"If a car breaks down or there's an accident, these vehicles will be able to be moved to the side and not disrupt traffic," says Dee, noting when there is congestion and a sudden stop occurs from a car that breaks down it creates secondary crashes as well.
The Safety Service Patrol is a crew tasked with removing cars that have broken down on the road.
Dee explains another advantage of having two bridges is if one breaks down traffic can be diverted to the other one, additionally if there needs to be an emergency evacuation of LBI both can be routed for westward traffic.
"There's hurricane season and we want to maintain the ability to evacuate Long Beach Island."
Summer Driving Tips
Like many, Dee expects summer traffic to be as heavy as ever as tens of thousands of cars head for the shore each day. He says while congestion is just a part of life when you have so many people all going to the same place, he assures road work shouldn't be the cause of additional delays on Memorial Day.
"During the summer season and on heavy traffic days, we prohibit lane closures unless there are emergency repairs that are being done."
As for fighting traffic and congestion, Dee says they don't have hard statistics on how many people take to the roads to visit the shore, but does have tips that may seem common sense.
"Friday afternoon traffic really intensifies on all major routes to the shore, same thing on Sunday afternoons heading back. So if you can work around those hours and work a little later that also helps."
He says car maintenance is also key since a broken down vehicle in the height of shore backup can cause things to come to a crawl even more so than they are.
Look for Part III tomorrow where we ask local businesses about the challenges of rebuilding after Sandy and if they'll reopen in time for Memorial Day Weekend.