Heading to (or near) the Polar Bear Plunge Saturday? You’ll need these traffic tips
Superstorm Sandy reconstruction on Route 35 is complete, but an anticipated 6,000 participants of the annual Polar Bear Plunge in Seaside Heights this Saturday have a new obstacle. Those traveling to the event from Route 37 in Toms River should expect delays and congestion due to construction closing the Mathis Bridge into Seaside Heights.
Steve Schapiro, New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman, said only one inbound lane is available on the Tunney Bridge and two lanes leaving Seaside, separated by a safety barrier. He noted traffic lights on the highway would be manually controlled by law enforcement to help the flow of traffic into Seaside.
With alternating traffic using the one bridge, there are no shoulders. As a safety precaution, Schapiro said tow trucks and emergency vehicles would be in place to be able to remove any disabled vehicles quickly and efficiently.
"The DOT has been working very closely with the event organizers as well as local officials regarding the Polar Plunge this weekend, and basically we're recommending that anyone attending the event look at alternate routes," said Schapiro.
Shapiro said people may find Route 35 has a pleasant driving surface since undergoing the massive construction project over the past few years and he provided a few options for accessing the state highway.
"For folks coming from the north, taking the Garden State Parkway, we're recommending to use exit 98 for Route 34 south, and if you follow Route 34 that becomes Route 35. You can take Route 35 down through Bay Head, Mantoloking, Lavalette and into Seaside Heights, and that's a very good way to get in," Shapiro said.
He added, those traveling from Garden State Parkway south can take exit 90 in Brick Township to Chambersbridge Road to Mantoloking Road/County Route 528, and take the Mantoloking Bridge to Route 35 south to get to Seaside.
"The event organizers also are making all of the participants aware of the different alternate routes and we're just asking people to plan a little extra time to get in," said Schapiro. He said people should have plenty of time to get to the event, pointing out that registration opens at 9 a.m., several hours before the 1 p.m. plunge.
Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Matronardy said his department is working with Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd and assigning additional officers to help direct traffic Saturday, as well as in Toms River and Brick Townships if needed.
"There may be some congestion, but we're certainly prepared to handle any emergency that may arise," said Mastronardy.
The Polar Bear Plunge is expected to raise more than $1.6 million for Special Olympics New Jersey.