ATLANTIC CITY — Five Boardwalk casinos and a hospital want a judge to prevent Atlantic City from completing a controversial program to narrow the main road running through the city's downtown, saying such a move could hurt business and endanger lives during traffic-choked periods.

The AtlantiCare hospital system, and Caesars, Tropicana, Bally's, Hard Rock and Resorts casinos, are asking a state Superior Court judge to order an end to the project, which began Dec. 13.

The city says the federal and state-funded project will make a dangerous road safer at no cost to local taxpayers. Officials said narrowing the road was a requirement for accepting the $24 million in government funds.

Last Friday, Judge Michael Blee in Atlantic County declined to issue the immediate order the casinos and the hospital had sought to stop the project in its tracks. Rather, the judge will hear full details of the situation in a Jan. 26 hearing.

Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts as well as of the Casino Association of New Jersey, the industry's trade group, said the casinos support the repaving and traffic light synchronization aspects of the project, which is aimed at reducing pedestrian fatalities and injuries on 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers) of Atlantic Avenue.

But he said a full study needs to be done to examine the potential impacts of narrowing the road. He also said such a plan must be approved by a state agency, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which has power over traffic in the area that includes Atlantic Avenue.

He said the casinos have been asking the city for over a year to do such a study, which would try to predict how traffic would be pushed onto other roads in more residential neighborhoods, as well as onto Pacific Avenue, which he said is already overwhelmed by traffic during peak hours. The six Boardwalk casinos have entrances along Pacific Avenue.

“This change in traffic patterns on Atlantic Avenue could have very real public health, safety and general welfare implications,” Giannantonio said in a statement.

He said the hospital's ambulances routinely use Atlantic Avenue to transport critically ill or injured patients to its trauma center, adding the elimination of one lane could deprive the emergency vehicles of a passing lane to get around stopped traffic.

He also noted that Atlantic Avenue is one of the main evacuation routes in the frequently flooded coastal resort city.

Regarding the impact on casinos, he said, “We are fearful that this will cause congestion and traffic problems all of which would detract from our customers’ experience in coming to and leaving our properties.”

It is not an unfounded concern; even with four lanes available on Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City can become difficult to drive through during busy summer or holiday periods, especially when special events like the summer air show or one or more big-name concerts are in town.

Mayor Marty Small defended the project, and took heart from the judge's decision not to issue an immediate order halting work.

A city-commissioned study on which the plan is partially based counted 829 collisions on the road between 2013 and 2017. Of those, 75 — or 9.1% — involved pedestrians being struck. Small said he knew several people who were killed in accidents on Atlantic Avenue.

“Some very powerful people have been trying to stop this project since its inception, but the Small administration has been standing up to all of them," he said in a statement issued after Friday's ruling. “People keep wanting to make this about traffic flow, but this project is being done in the name of safety for the residents and visitors."

The Greater Atlantic City Chamber, one of numerous business organizations in the city, also supports the repaving and traffic signal synchronization work. But the group says it, too, wants to see a traffic study on the impact of reducing road space by 50%.

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