Polar Bear Plunge in Seaside Heights – smoother traffic flow expected Saturday
Remember the traffic nightmare following last year's Polar Bear Plunge in Seaside Heights? The event returns to town this weekend, but there's good reason to expect a smoother exit.
According to local and state officials, both of the main routes are clear of the activity and interruptions that forced people to spend hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic last February on Route 35.
Steve Schapiro, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, said the big difference this year is the completion of work on the Mathis Bridge, which connects routes 35 and 37.
"Last year, that was still under construction," he said. "That is the best way on and off the peninsula."
Message boards on Saturday are expected to lead exiting drivers to Hamilton Ave., which brings them to the bridge, Route 37 and, eventually, the Garden State Parkway.
But with thousands of plungers signed up the event, many of whom will bring their family and friends, there is still expected to be a big rush to head north on Route 35 when the event concludes.
In some areas last year, Route 35 was reduced to a single lane with alternating traffic. That will not be the case this year, according to Schapiro.
"Where Route 35 is one lane in each direction - through Bay Head and Mantoloking - that's all open," he said. "You have your normal flow of traffic in those two towns."
Christopher Vaz, Seaside Heights Borough Administrator, said the event is expecting 600 more people than last year.
"We don't expect any major problems traffic-wise," he added. "We'll be ready for it."
Schapiro said the Route 37 path is also the best way to enter Seaside Heights. Parkway travelers can reach the highway by taking exit 82.