Mayor says new bridge will present new challenges for the city

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OCEAN CITY — The new, $400 million Route 52 Bridge and Causeway should be open, with four lanes, by Memorial Day weekend, Mayor Jay Gillian reminded residents at a March 13 2nd Ward meeting.

The new fixed span bridge, he said, was an awesome sight and would be a huge benefit to the island, but like anything new, would present some issues as motorists get used to arriving on new terrain and into new traffic patterns.

Second ward residents, he warned, would bear the brunt of the learning curve as hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive each week.

“We’re going to have to slow people down coming off that bridge,” he said. “Our officers will be there, we’re going to have to write some tickets to remind people that you can’t speed into town.

“We’re definitely going to need your input,” he said.

Gillian said city officials tried to fix some problems they saw on paper before construction was finished. A right-hand turn onto Palen Avenue was nixed so cars wouldn’t speed through the quiet bayfront neighborhood, using the road as a short cut.

A cut through to Aldrich Road from Ninth Street was also closed. Gillian said residents asked for relief as motorists often used that road as a short cut. Gillian said that he was, on occasion, guilty himself of driving too fast on the road.

“We’re not all perfect people,” he said. “I’m glad it’s not there anymore.”

“We need to know from everyone as this unfolds,” he said. “We want to know, what bad habits has everyone gotten in to? It will take some time. There will be police enforcement and people won’t like that, but we have to do it.”

The city, he said, had applied for a grant to put a “traffic calming” light at Haven Avenue to delineate the city’s bike path and allow for pedestrian crossing. If the grant application is approved, the street will be marked with a large crossing to slow down traffic.

When asked about traffic issues on Saturdays during the “change-over” period from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when one group of visitors is exiting the island while another arrives, Gililan said Ocean City would do its best to make officers available for traffic detail, but some of the backup begins in Somers Point as cars struggle to enter and exit the Garden State Parkway.

Gillian said he was considering prohibiting left-hand turns on Ninth Street during the peak times.

“When I was growing up, there used to be big signs out there, saying ‘no left turn’ at the intersections,” he said. “That was a good idea.”

Night in Venice, Gillian said, would present a new challenge. With the aging drawbridge, the city faced a different set of issues. The bridge was closed for the duration of the parade as boats passed underneath and there was never a consideration for spectators lining the bridge.

This year, the fixed span bridge will remain open throughout the parade. The bridge features a 10-foot-wide multi-use pathway along the south side.

“So what do you do about crowd control?” a resident asked.

Gillian said police Chief Chad Callahan was “on top” of the issue.


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