• December 15, 2019

1953-54: Building a grand project, the Parkway in southern NJ - Ocean City Sentinel: News

1953-54: Building a grand project, the Parkway in southern NJ

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Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 10:36 am

CAPE MAY COUNTY – The need for a dual parkway linking Cape May County with the Garden State Parkway became a reality in the 1950s. 

The Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger reported on Sept. 17, 1953 that Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul L. Troast addressed 50 Cape May County municipal and county officials at the Flanders Hotel and spoke about extending the parkway. 

“Mr. Troast suggested that one economy that might be effected would be to route the north and south roadways closer together, thereby reducing the cost of maintaining the center parking strip,” the paper reported.

“Perhaps the thinking on the Parkway in this county can be changed,” Troast said. “Perhaps enough economies can be effected to make the dual highway possible, right at the start.” 

State Senator A.J. Cafiero said many bids already received on the Parkway construction have been lower than estimates, which could’ve resulted in the authorized $285,000 for the entire Parkway being sufficient to include a southern extension. 

“None of the $285,000 will be left over when the Parkway is completed,” Cafiero said. “It will all be spent to build as much Parkway as possible. If it is not sufficient, the Parkway will be completed later with tolls collected from the completed portion. The part of the Parkway that is considered most important is being built first. If the Authority decides that Cape May County is least important, then we have to be satisfied with a temporary expedient and be patient until more funds are available.” 

Cafiero said property owners skyrocketed the price of land where the Parkway was projected, adding to the cost. 

Troast and Cafiero said that an east-west expressway, linking the Philadelphia metropolitan area with the Parkway will be the next big highway undertaking after the Parkway is completed. 

Troast said the municipalities, county and state government must work together to complete the Parkway. 

“It must be completed, its entire length,” Troast said. “And I want to see it a limited-access highway its entire length. I want to see it terminated at the south end so that there will be no traffic bottleneck. It cannot be of full benefit unless it is connected to Delaware with the ferry system.”

The Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger reported Oct. 1, 1953 that the first two lanes of the Parkway’s extension in Cape May County would be completed by September 1954. The southbound lane will be open by Memorial Day of that year, the paper reported. 

The New Jersey Highway Authority bought right-of-way for the full width of the dual super-highway throughout the county to Cape May Point. 

Bayard L. England, vice chairman of the Highway Authority, said at a Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting in Cape May Court House that a traffic check indicated that a two-lane highway will be able to handle traffic the next summer. 

“He (England) said that negotiations are now in progress for the purchase by the Authority of the existing Beesleys Point Bridge, but that eventually the Authority will construct a new and permanent bridge costing an estimated $6,300,000. It will parallel the present bridge, just to the east of it,” the newspaper reported. “The temporary use of the existing bridge, he explained, is just one of the expedients to which the Authority is resorting to speed up completion of the Parkway at the earliest possible moment. If time were taken to build a new bridge now, the Parkway opening in this county would be delayed two years, he declared.” 

Cape May City voiced protests because it was rumored the Parkway would stop outside the city, leaving no access. England said that the Parkway will skirt into Cape May on its way to Cape May Point.

“It will not dump a lot of traffic into the center of Cape May,” England said. “That is not the function of any expressway. We try to avoid every city. The Parkway’s function will be to transport people from one place to another, as quickly, smoothly and safely as possible.”

As to a long-proposed ferry system between Cape May Point and Lewes, Delaware, England wasn’t so optimistic. 

“Traffic engineers are not convinced that the Parkway will at first develop sufficient traffic to warrant the sale of $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 worth of bonds that will be required to build and operate the ferry system. It is their thought that the ferry would wait until traffic justifies it,” England said. “We of the Parkway Authority think that they are wrong; we are convinced that the Parkway will develop a heavy flow of traffic right from the start. There is no question in our minds that the ferry system will be built. How soon will depend upon traffic.”

Delays by contractors delayed the opening of the Garden State Parkway in Cape May County to Labor Day 1954, the Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger reported July 16, 1954.

Authority spokesmen assured the county that the opening would be on or before August 1, or even earlier, on July 15.

However, Milton Levy, Authority public relations director confirmed the delay in a letter to the editor in the Sentinel-Ledger.

“The public relations director explained that the Authority schedule of target dates has been rendered obsolete because of delays by some contractors, but that the Authority had been reluctant to blame the contractors publicly,” the paper reported. 

The first section of the Parkway in Cape May County opened to traffic on Aug. 28, 1954 after being delayed. 

The Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger reported Aug. 27, 1954 that the Ocean City-Somers Point interchange opened and connected “113 unbroken miles northward.” 

The New Jersey Highway Authority announced plans for opening an additional six miles of the Parkway south from Tilton Road in Pleasantville to Somers Point, providing access to Ocean City for the first time.

“The parkway is a divided highway, separate roadways carrying each direction of traffic. A center island measuring up to 60 feet in width separates the northbound and southbound roadways. There are no intersections or traffic lights along the entire 165-mile route which the road will cover when completed from Paramus to Cape May,” the paper reported. 

Three traffic signals were added to the Parkway in Cape May County, however: at exits 9, 10 and 11. The signalized intersections were removed in a 2015 project

The Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger reported the Parkway’s opening Oct. 28, 1954 with a ceremony at Telegraph Hill near Keysport.

Cape May County and local dignitaries joined officials from the state including Gov. Robert B. Meyner and former Gov. Alfred E. Driscoll, whose administration launched the Parkway project.

“Governor Meyner described the state’s first Parkway as ‘one of the finest, safest and most beautiful highway facilities in the nation.’ He said it is a ‘monument’ to the thousands of workmen who completed the presently opened section ‘under difficult conditions’ in an attempt to make it usable for part of the summer season just passed,” the paper reported. 

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