March 31, 2011 – To the Sandpaper
Why change Long Beach Boulevard in Harvey Cedars? Let’s start with the “best practices” of the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT). In late 2009, the DOT created the
Complete Streets program, requiring engineers and planners to consider all users of a road
(drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians) when designing new roadways or making significant changes to existing streets. A repaving is the opportunity to comply with this program.
The idea of changing the narrow, shoulderless four lane “Parkway” through Harvey Cedars to
three lanes was actually proposed by the Ocean County Engineer as a result of a safety study, paid for by the County, in response to our plea for changes that would make the Boulevard easier to cross, easier to merge from the side streets, and more conducive to activities desired by our residents and tourists alike. Once the simulation prepared by the professional traffic study firm of Stantec was reviewed, this change was touted by the County Engineer as being the safest design with little impact on moving traffic.
After community meetings and a survey of the wishes of our taxpayers, which showed a large majority favoring the change to three lanes, the HC Board of Commissioners asked the County
Freeholder to initiate this change at the next Boulevard repaving.
Did everyone agree? Of course not. Everyone has their own perspective how the impact of the change will affect them. Some emergency services personnel have expressed skepticism about their ability to get through to complete their calls. Fire trucks and ambulances manage to get through on much busier two lane roads all over our area, roads through Ocean Acres and Route 9 for example. Having a wide shoulder to move onto would actually allow drivers to get out of the way of responders. Again some question the impact on evacuation, but movement through Harvey Cedars from the north end would not be restricted by this change as the turning lane would become a southbound lane and logic and experience tells us the bottleneck will actually be in Ship Bottom with both ends of the Island merging onto one bridge.
The Stantec study and the professional opinion of the County Engineer demonstrated that the change would slow transit the two miles of HC by maximum 30 seconds and the road would be safer for east/west beach access, pulling out of side roads, and north/south movement of bikes and pedestrians through town. We have even heard, privately, from several traffic safety officers from outside our town that this would be a great improvement.
It isn’t as if this type of change hasn’t been done before on Long Beach Island. The County
changed the road configuration in Beach Haven a number of years ago to provide more parking along the Boulevard in the most commercial part of town. Here is an example of how the very configuration we have asked for works in a much more travelled community. Drivers adjust, emergency vehicles get through, and the governing body of the town was given what they asked for without input from contiguous towns.
One might ask why isn’t the County Freeholder listening to his own expert’s professional
opinion? Why can’t the governing body of HC, appropriately representing the desire of the
majority of our taxpayers, determine what is best for our own town? Why should neighboring
towns hold the welfare of our population hostage with concerns that it will take too long to get
through Harvey Cedars? The citizens of Harvey Cedars don’t just want to “get through” our
town, we want to live, work, and play safely here.
Again, we ask County Freeholder Kelly to consider our request to change the Boulevard to three lanes with adequate safety shoulders. This road diet would meet the NJDOT standards cited previously. We have even suggested the opportunity to “try” this configuration for the period of time before the road is due to be repaved, 2013 or 2014 most likely. If it causes the doomsday scenarios put forth by opponents of change it can be returned to its present “Parkway” like design. This seems like a fair compromise for all concerned.
Harvey Cedars Board of Commissioners
Jonathan Oldham, Judith Gerkens, Michael Garofalo