Ocean County officials rejoiced yesterday as the last of the barrels were removed from the Garden State Parkway between Toms River and Manahawkin, signaling the long-awaited opening of a highway that is now three lanes in each direction.
"That extra lane is a tremendous improvement,’’ said Freeholder John P. Kelly, who makes the trip from West Creek to the county seat everyday.
"It makes a remarkable difference,’’ said Freeholder Gerry P. Little of Surf City, who is also on the newly widened stretch of highway each day.
Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said the New Jersey Turnpike Authority kept its promise to get the widened stretch of the toll road open before Memorial Day. Vicari said that should help the tourism season that traditionally starts on that holiday.
Kelly said the Authority "did a good job keeping traffic moving’’ while the road was being widened. "Our engineering department worked very closely with the Turnpike Authority,’’ planning the widening and realigning of county roads at key interchanges, particularly in Barnegat.
Little said the work done on the Parkway was a "good economic boost to Ocean County,’’ because many county residents worked on the project.
Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. asked Kelly to have a report prepared on county spending in conjunction with the Parkway widening. "It’s a considerable amount,’’ he said.
Little said the business owners on Long Beach Island are "looking for a positive season,’’ and those hopes are buoyed by the wider toll road – if gas prices continue to drop.
Vicari said in addition to the Parkway project being completed, work has stopped on the Tunney Bridge taking Route 37 from Seaside Heights to Toms River.
"The tourism outlook is good,’’ he declared.