UPPER TOWNSHIP — A consulting firm has gone back to the drawing board after neighbors expressed concern over a proposal to restripe part of Ocean Drive in the north end of Sea Isle City and the south end of Strathmere, an area known locally as Whale Beach.
A special public information meeting to get input on the latest options is set for 4 to 6 p.m. April 20 at the Welcome Center, 300 Kennedy Blvd. in Sea Isle City. Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster said the options will be on display, and representatives of the consulting firm MV5, which has a $38,000 contract to study the road and make recommendations, will be on hand to get input from the public and explain the pros and cons of the various options.
“Not one of them is going to satisfy everybody,” Foster said.
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Cape May County is trying to address longstanding issues with the narrow road, which sees heavy use on summer weekends. In July and August, the road is heavy with the cars of beachgoers, surfers and anglers parked bumper-to-bumper for blocks. In part of the area, there are no sidewalks, which means cars, bikes and pedestrians, and diamondback turtles seeking a nesting spot, compete for use of the narrow road.
But it would be difficult for the county to widen the beachside road, with a line of high dunes on one side under state protection, and private property and marsh on the other.
One idea called for eliminating parking on one side of the road and creating a pedestrian walkway separated from traffic by a parking lane on the far side.
Some Strathmere residents were skeptical of the plan. One resident, Ted Kingston, told Township Committee in March that shifting the lanes would do more harm than good.
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According to a document provided by Foster, seven options are on the table. Most include some kind of change in the lanes, from adding bike lane striping known as sharrows to eliminating parking on one side of the street to make room for pedestrians and bicycles.
The road is known as Landis Avenue in Sea Isle, Commonwealth Avenue in Strathmere and Ocean Drive elsewhere in the county. The proposals differentiate between the area of Strathmere north of Putnam Avenue, where there are sidewalks, and the area south of Putnam. The Ocean Beach Trailer Resort runs from Putnam south for several blocks.
From there to beyond the border with Sea Isle, the road has two 12-foot lanes and 8 feet of parking on either side, with a posted speed limit of 40 mph. Among the proposals are some that would reduce the travel lanes to 11 feet to allow for a buffer. Foster has also discussed reducing the speed limit.
Kingston attended the Monday meeting, reiterating his opposition to any proposal that would shift the lanes, which he believes would be less safe than what exists.
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“The people of Strathmere have been asking for a number of years for something to be done there,” he told Township Committee. The easiest solution would be to eliminate parking on the west side of the road, he said.
Committeeman Curtis Corson said that would eliminate a lot of parking in the area.
Kingston acknowledged there are limits to what can be accomplished along the road.
“You can only fit so many people in so much space,” he said.
No decision has been made, Foster said. There is a slim possibility something could be changed by this summer if a consensus were reached by the end of this month, but it's more likely any change will wait until summer 2019, he said.