West Avenue traffic improvements moving forward

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OCEAN CITY — Council went out to bid on the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Fifth Street and West Avenue at its Feb. 23 meeting

The unanimous vote was welcomed by at least one local resident; the traffic light can’t come soon enough for Joyce Bakely Trofa, a long-time cafeteria worker at the Ocean City Primary School, which is located on the corner where the traffic light is being considered.

“I hope you pass it,” she said to council members during public comment. “The safety of the children is so important. I have a heck of a time getting into the school with the high school kids whipping around the corner.”

Council members were at first reluctant to support the light since there is already a light at nearby Sixth Street and West Avenue. Councilman Keith Hartzell said Trofa’s lobbying convinced him a light was necessary.

“I got some calls on it,” he said. “Mrs. Trofa said it doesn’t always help that we have a crossing guard at Fifth Street.”

Mayor Jay Gillian said that West Avenue is “so wide” that it’s “like a raceway.”

“It’s all about public safety,” he said, adding that the supplementary safety feature of a traffic light near the school would be helpful.

“Before I became a responsible citizen, I used to be a traffic light beater,” Gillian said, adding that now that he utilizes a golf cart on most of his in-town trips, he doesn’t have to worry about being tempted.

 

34th Street and West Avenue

Throughout the island, traffic calming measures are being utilized, and one of the most obvious is a “bumped out” curb that not only slows traffic down, it makes it easier for pedestrians to cross a street by narrowing the width of the street at the corners.

A project to improve 34th Street is a work in progress, business administrator Mike Dattilo said.

Cape May County is in charge of the project, he noted, since West Avenue is a county road. Dattilo said he had received numerous calls about the project since work commenced on the northwest corner. A new traffic light was installed last week.

“They are bumping out the curbs on the corners,” he said. “It’s a very narrow turning radius. The project is intended to make it easier to cross 34th Street. Because 34th Street is not changing, I was told that the change doesn’t make it worse for oversized vehicles.”

Council President Mike Allegretto asked if cars stopped at the traffic light heading east on 34th Street could be stopped about 20 feet shorter than they are at the present time. Sometimes, during the summer, he noted, cars pull up too close to the light and big trucks cannot make the turn.

Councilman Scott Ping said there was a major incident at the light at 8 a.m. that Thursday morning when a tractor trailer “took out” brand new signs cemented in on the corner.

“The truck couldn’t make the turn, there were cops all over the place,” he said.

Drawings of the corner show that the northwest and southwest corners are bumped out only slightly; brick pavers are in place and the corners are handicapped accessible.

The northeast and southeast corners will be bumped out further into the intersection. Though the road will be narrowed, Dattilo said there will still be two lanes heading north after the intersection. Vehicles approaching 34th Street from the north will have designated lanes to turn left, go straight and to turn right.

Thirty fourth Street is staying the same width, the change is on West Avenue,” said Dattilo. “The lanes will be modified somewhat to accommodate the changes on West Avenue. There will be new and improved crosswalks, it’s all designed to make it safer for pedestrians.”

New signals will be installed at Bay, West, Asbury and Central Avenues, Dattilo said. The lights will be timed to facilitate moving traffic during the busy summer season.

“Each corner will have ADA ramps,” Dattilo said.

The curb improvements are part of a larger traffic signal upgrade project in Ocean City and Wildwood worth $2.4 million, which was awarded by the county Dec. 30 to Diehl Electric, Inc. of Blackwood.

Improvements include the upgrading to current standards and synchronizing the traffic signal systems at the 34th Street intersections with Bay Avenue, West Avenue, Asbury Avenue and Central Avenue in Ocean City.  All of the traffic signal equipment along 34th Street will be replaced and mounted on new aluminum poles.

All intersections will be brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This project uses federal funds approved through the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization and New Jersey Department of Transportation. The project was designed by Maser Consulting PA of Hamilton.


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