Council gets primer on roads and drainage projects

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OCEAN CITY – With $24 million in projected improvements to the city’s roads and drainage systems planned for the next five years, Ocean City will remedy most of its worst flooding problems, City Council was told Thursday night during a workshop meeting.

In a presentation directed primarily by city engineer Art Chew and city business administrator Mike Dattilo, the six members of council in attendance at the two-hour-long meeting held at City Hall learned of the administration’s three-pronged approach to improving the worst roads and alleviating the worst flooding.

Roads will be repaved and, in some cases, raised. Bulkheads will be replaced. Check valves and outfall pipes, many of which have already been addressed, will continue to be updated and maintained. And, if all goes as hoped, a FEMA grant could provide the necessary funding for a pumping station to be installed on city-owned land at Third Street and Haven Avenue, benefitting Bay and West avenues from Second to Eighth streets.

Currently, 75 percent of the city’s drainage areas are unable to handle a two-year storm, Chew told council and the 10 members of the public in attendance. A two-year storm has a one-in-two chance of occurring in any given year. The standard for roads, as set by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, is a 10-year storm, which is expected to occur once every 10 years, or has a one-in-10 chance of occurring in any given year.

“There are two reasons it floods,” Chew said. “The tide comes up or it will rain.”

Either reason is often enough to create flooding, and one solution – larger pipes – isn’t always the most attractive, Chew said. “Do you want a 60-inch pipe on the beach?” he asked. “That’s a 5-foot-tall pipe on the beach.”

There are 248 outfall pipes on the island, with 47 on the ocean between the Longport Bridge and 25th Street, Chew said. In recent years, the city has installed 31 new check valves, replacing 23 and adding eight in new locations. Chew said a new valve costs between $5,000 and $30,000, and installation costs run another $50,000. New bulkheads have been installed at Fourth, Sixth, 10th and 14th streets at the bay.

Having identified the island’s worst roads by using the Asphalt Institute’s rating system, the city plans to repave those streets that scored 60 or fewer points on a scale where 100 is best and 0 is worst. Projects slated for the immediate future include:

Oxford Lane between Bartram and Somerset

Argyle Place

Victoria Lane between Argyle and Bartram

Waterview Boulevard

Alder Lane

12th Street between Bay and Simpson

11th Street between Central and the boardwalk

Eighth Street between West and Atlantic

800 block of West Avenue

Seventh Street from West to the boardwalk

Pelham Place

Pennlyn Place between Ocean and the boardwalk

Marcus Harbor

At the conclusion of the roads and drainage projects in 2018, some of the streets currently identified as among the city’s worst will still be untouched. That is a function of funding, said Chew, who added, “We want to get to the ones that are most traveled.”

Mike DeVlieger, who represents the 1st Ward, was disappointed to see that a particular road in the Gardens wasn’t scheduled for improvement. “I have a constituent in his 80s who was hoping to see his road repaved in his lifetime,” said DeVlieger , who overall is enthused about the planned improvements.

“I am psyched by the fact we’re going to do it,” he said.

Council also questioned why utility companies that work on the island cannot coordinate their schedules with the city to prevent newly paved roads from being torn up; touched on the topic of how the new base flood elevation +2 (BFE) ruling would affect renovation plans of owners of older homes; and promoted the idea of encouraging residents to invest in water storage systems, such as rain barrels, on their properties to slow the damage created by runoff.

The workshop was a different approach to sharing information with council, Dattilo said, in that it specifically concentrated on roads, bulkheads and drainage instead of capital projects as a whole. Council voiced its appreciation of the concept, with councilman-at-large Keith Hartzell urging quarterly meetings for updates that focused on one particular topic.

Dattilo said the city would ask the state for a smaller bond sale, previously quoted as between $9 million and $10 million, with a conforming debt schedule in November, after having been denied twice in its request for $16.75 million in bond sales.

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