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Averting St. Pat's Traffic Nightmare Just One Concern For Ortley Residents

Daily traffic jams have become a frustrating part of life for neighborhood residents

Construction near Fielder Avenue in Ortley Beach. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Construction near Fielder Avenue in Ortley Beach. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Unless you live in Ortley Beach, you just don't know how it is every day.

That's what residents of the neighborhood told Toms River officials at a township council meeting Tuesday night.

The bulk of the meeting was dedicated to traffic issues related to the ongoing Route 35 reconstruction project and residents' concerns following a massive, hours-long traffic jam in every direction that resulted from heavy attendance at the Seaside Heights Polar Plunge last weekend.

"I made the unfortunate mistake of leaving my house at the wrong time," said Paul Jeffrey, an Ortley Beach resident who spent two hours getting from his home on Bay Boulevard to the border of Seaside Heights a few blocks away. "People actually started getting in fights at the intersections."

For Ortley Beach residents, each day represents a microcosm of the weekend traffic nightmare. It can sometimes take nearly an hour to get to Point Pleasant Beach or Brick Township. Just a few cars can jam up the green left-turn arrow at the start of the detour through Seaside Heights to get over the Route 37 bridge into mainland Toms River. Roads that are open before someone goes to dinner are closed on the way home, leaving residents searching, block by block, for an open street to get back to their home. Some people, fed up and unable to find a path to their homes, ride over sidewalks and temporary hoses or sewer pipes.

"Had we not been driving a vehicle capable of driving over curbs and sidewalks, I would not have been able to go where I needed to go," said Martha Bowden, another Ortley Beach resident, describing a recent trip to a store. "We need someone to tell the residents what’s going on. We don’t have that, and what is going to happen over the summer?"

But before the summer season arrives, locals must deal with the annual Seaside Heights St. Patrick's Day Parade, scheduled for March 8. The parade is expected to draw more than 17,000 revelers, and officials say planning has already started to avert a repeat of the plunge disaster, where just one lane fed all of the traffic onto the barrier island from the Route 37 bridge, and Route 35 traffic was heavily detoured due to construction.

"They anticipate a large crowd for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, but not everyone will be arriving and leaving at the same time," said Toms River Council President Maria Maruca, who owns a business in Seaside Heights.

Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little has scheduled meetings with Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd as well as officials from the state Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the reconstruction project. The DOT has said they will have three lanes open to the island in time for Memorial Day weekend, but the plan for parade day is still unclear.

Locally, Toms River officials said, police departments will work with the Ocean County Sheriff's Department to help control the flow of traffic and route vehicles toward Hamilton Avenue in Seaside Heights, the only way off the island without having to drive miles north to Mantoloking.

For beleaguered Ortley Beach residents, there does not appear to be any immediate relief in sight, however. The detours that are in place will likely continue until Memorial Day Weekend, when the state has committed to reopen each lane that leads to Seaside Heights.

Maruca said the DOT has not told the township of any residual side street closures that could result from the project over the summer.

Still, some residents are skeptical.

"Thank God we had no medical emergencies, or that person wouldn’t stand a chance," said Ken Langdon, another Ortley Beach resident. "I cannot believe, in any way, shape or form, looking at the roads the way they are now, that anything will be in a great position by Memorial Day."
Av February 26, 2014 at 04:56 PM
@ortley riggers rocks!!! My home since Sandy took home, I get free booze and milk jug drop off point!!!!
Sean Conneamhe February 26, 2014 at 05:38 PM
"Impeach Christie..."
Scott Derek February 26, 2014 at 07:31 PM
Maybe to alleviate traffic issues the township should set up parking at some of the local schools and have buses transport people over to Seaside? Of course then you're talking about someone's footing the bill for that....the taxpayers.
Smot Revir February 28, 2014 at 11:11 AM
Miserable life = maruca failed my ward !! Why don't you just go in the garage, close the door, start up the car and listen to Lawrence Welk ! You my friend are an A$$HAT !
Mac February 28, 2014 at 11:42 AM
what traffic problem? - let the Seaside first responders handle the situation - once the parade starts, surround the Seasides with orange cones, keep the kegs of green beer flowing and have the established towing service handle the extra traffic - Belmar, eat your heart out

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