Trump supporters question NJ road closure timing — but it’s just a coincidence
No, it's not another "Bridgegate" in the making.
The state Department of Transportation on Friday announced the closure of Route 47 in Middle Township starting on Monday.
The closure will continue for months and coincide with President Donald Trump's visit to Wildwood on Jan. 28, leading to speculation from some conservative and Trump-supporting publications that the administration of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy might be trying jam the roadways as tens of thousands of people descend on the Jersey Shore resort for the rally.
But state officials say the closure and detour had been planned before the Trump rally announcement — and documents obtained by New Jersey 101.5 bear that out.
The public announcement by a DOT news release on Jan. 17 said the road work will address sinkholes that have compromised the roadway.
"This is necessary emergency work that was scheduled before the announcement of President Trump’s visit and unfortunately cannot wait," DOT spokesman Steve Schapiro told New Jersey 101.5 in an email on Tuesday.
The state expects to get the work done by June, the start of the busy summer season at the Jersey Shore.
"There is a culvert consisting of two pipes that carry Dias Creek underneath Route 47," Schapiro said. "The pipes have cracked allowing water to erode the underlying soil supporting the pipes, causing an unstable condition making it unsafe to drive on this section of Route 47."
A week earlier on Jan. 6, the Trump campaign had announced its 7 p.m. Jan. 28 rally at the Wildwood Convention Center. The first mentions of the rally were posted on Twitter a few minutes after 6 p.m.
But earlier that day, the DOT had sent an internal memo to counties and municipalities announcing that the Route 47 road closure would begin on Jan. 28. A copy of the 14-day Advance Traffic Impact Notice was provided by the DOT to New Jersey 101.5, redacted for confidential contact information.
Bidding for the roadwork also went out in October, records show, long before U.S. Rep. Van Drew had switched to the Republican Party, prompting Trump's visit.
The coincidence raised some concerns, including from Atlantic City-based TalkRadio WPG host Harry Hurley, who said he expects to see summertime traffic jams during the rally next week.
It also fueled wild speculation of a plot by the Murphy administration.
Breitbart asserted in a headline, without evidence, that the road closure was done to "interfere with Trump rally traffic." A New Jersey website known for conservative views displayed a photo illustration of Murphy holding a traffic cone and alluded to Bridgegate convict Bridget Anne Kelly's smoking-gun email: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Route 47 is a 50 mph highway, also known as Delsea Drive, that runs 75 miles from Westville in Gloucester County into Wildwood. It picks up traffic from Route 55, which cuts the need to drive to the Garden State Parkway.
Schapiro said the road closure will not be debilitating for traffic headed to the Trump rally because "the primary routes from the Philadelphia area or Millville to Wildwood would not utilize this portion of Route 47."
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