• November 14, 2019

Cross-bay officials to meet with NJTA on parkway walkway plans - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Cross-bay officials to meet with NJTA on parkway walkway plans

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Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 11:06 am

Upper Township engineer Paul Dietrich expects to have an update for Township Committee on plans for a bike lane connecting Cape May and Atlantic counties at the governing body’s next meeting, set for Monday, Aug. 12. 

Dietrich is set to meet this week with officials from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which also operates the Garden State Parkway. In recent years, the authority spent close to $80 million to complete the new bridge over Great Egg Harbor Bay, including a crossing for bikes and walkers separated from the fast-moving parkway traffic by concrete and a tall, mesh steel fence decorated with images of gulls. 

Many thousands use the bridge each year on their way to Cape May County’s beach resorts. The project included a bike path and walkway on the west side of the bridge, connecting the Harbor Road area of Beesleys Point to Somers Point near the parkway offices at the Great Egg Harbor Toll Plaza. 

Upper Township officials have been eager to see the bike path opened. On their side of the bay, the entrance is close to the township’s only bay beach with a lifeguard, a popular spot for boaters and swimmers, especially for families with young children. 

There is a gravel parking lot at the site, and a long ramp leading to the walkway, blocked by a sign that says “Walkway Closed During Construction,” although it appears that the construction on the bridge is now complete. 

When Township Committee members discussed the matter in February, Dietrich said Somers Point officials asked the opening be delayed until safety improvements are made on their end.

Contacted this week, Dietrich declined to say when the meeting would take place with parkway officials, but Somers Point City Administrator Wes Swain said it was planned for Friday. 

Swain said his city is working with the state Department of Transportation to create an overpass so that bikes and walkers will not have to cross heavy traffic to enter Somers Point.  

“We just want to make sure that when it’s done, it’s safe,” Swain said. 

The pedestrian walkway ends near a now closed section of Route 9 that once led to the Beesleys Point Bridge, which was demolished in 2016 after being closed to traffic for more than a decade due to structural problems. 

There is an overpass spanning the parkway lanes, but a bike rider would then have to cross the exit ramp from the northbound lanes to reach the neighborhoods and businesses of Somers Point. An extensive bike lane exists on the far side of Somers Point, connecting Atlantic County communities as far north as Pleasantville. 

On the Cape May County side of the bridge, Dietrich has been working with county officials on plans to improve bike routes in Upper Township, including the potential connection of Beesleys Point to Ocean City by way of Marmora and eventually connecting other areas of Upper Township. He has suggested there could be a two-county bike route system running from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal all the way to Pleasantville. 




Over the winter, officials also discussed plans for extensive improvements to the Harbor Road area, with the idea of using that as a gateway to Cape May County and a prototype for future projects undertaken by the county Open Space Fund. 

Plans have been in the works on that project since fall 2018, with the completed bike lane to Atlantic County seen as an important element. Dietrich said this week that the county is close to submitting applications for the needed permits, with a possibility that work could begin next winter. 

At the February meeting, Upper Township officials suggested the walkway be opened at the Beesleys Point side, even if the Somers Point side remains closed until further improvements are completed, with the idea that many would enjoy a chance to walk along the bay. 

The bridge is about a mile and a quarter long and is one of the primary routes into Cape May County. A Turnpike Authority spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on this story. Swain did not want to discuss his city’s plans in detail before the Friday meeting, saying that would be premature. 

Upper Township Committee meets at 7:30 p.m. at Township Hall, 2100 Tuckahoe Road.

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