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Freeholders: DOT Needs 'Constructive' Parade Day Plan For Route 35

Vicari: board may pass resolution if DOT does not come up with a parade day plan; towns can't get answers from state agency

Construction at Route 35 and Bay Boulevard, Ortley Beach. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Construction at Route 35 and Bay Boulevard, Ortley Beach. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Admitting they have little to no jurisdiction over the ongoing construction on Route 35, the Ocean County Freeholder this week took the state Department of Transportation to task for what they say is a lack of communication with local mayors and public officials regarding the project.

Freeholder Joseph Vicari also said, in no uncertain terms, that the Seaside Heights St. Patrick's Day Parade set for a week from Saturday will go on as scheduled.

"We cannot cancel that parade," said Vicari. "It would be devastating to the tourism industry."

Vicari said local mayors have told him that their calls to the DOT often go unanswered, leaving both municipal officials and motorists with unresolved questions and issues with the project. In Lavallette, he said, the borough has resorted to handing out claim forms to drivers whose cars have suffered damage due to the project.

But at the top of the list of immediate concerns is the parade, during which officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the 14 mile-long traffic backup that occurred during the Feb. 22 Polar Plunge event, also held in Seaside Heights.

During that event, just one lane to the resort community was open, causing traffic to back up the length of the Route 37 bridge to Vaughn Avenue in Toms River, and far back as Mantoloking on Route 35, through the entire towns of Brick, Lavallette and Toms River on the northern barrier island.

"This cannot happen again," Vicari said. "If we find out that there’s no constructive plan in place by Tuesday, with the administrator working with me, we will send a resolution."

The resolution, which would be passed at the freeholder board's regular meeting Wednesday, would call on the state agency to formulate a traffic management plan for the parade and to communicate with local officials.

"You have to return our phone calls, and it has to be someone who’s an authority," said a frustrated Vicari, of the DOT.

The DOT did not return a call from Patch on Thursday asking if there had been any progress made on coming up with a plan for parade day.

"My fear is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better," said Freeholder Jack Kelly, who hedged on placing blame for the Polar Plunge delay on the DOT.

"On the one hand, people want this project to stop Memorial Day to Labor Day," said Kelly. "On the other hand, that is prime time for doing roadwork. I can’t blame this all on the DOT. It’s a massive project to replace this entire road at once."

But Vicari doubled down on the communication issue.

"Every town said the same thing: return our phone calls so we can express our concerns," he said.

Toms River Council President Maria Maruca said earlier this week that township officials would meet with Seaside Heights borough officials to determine how to best direct traffic on parade day. The towns have tapped the Ocean County Sheriff's Department to help manage traffic in the area.
Puddin Tane March 01, 2014 at 03:58 PM
3 years ago, when the DOT was working on the Tunney bridge(westbound), one lane was closed and there were "Crash barrier" trucks in the center lane. One lane open on St.Patrick's Parade day, and it took 3 hours to get from the A&P to Douglas Street which has the longest traffic lights cycle in the county. A TR patrol car sat in the restaurant parking lot, another was in the Seafood Parking lot, and another was on Fisher Blvd at the landscaper's place. NO NE, I say, NO ONE was directing traffic to speed the flow off of the island. Closing the Douglas Street jug handle, or having a competent traffic officer controlling the signal would work wonders. the boys in blue need to get out of the cushy patrol cars and actively manage traffic. My late father was a cop in Newark and directed rush hour traffic at Broad and Market Streets, in the rain, in the show and in the cold. How about a little "old school" Police work?
Robert Scalera Jr March 02, 2014 at 07:38 PM
County OEM declare state of emergency. Establish traffic patterns to move vehicles in and out effciently. To SSH 37 east only. Out of SSH 37 West and 35 North. Shut down 35 South at 2 pm thru Mantoloking and have green lights to Mantoloking Bridge
ceeg March 02, 2014 at 08:40 PM
Chris Galamb Like many others, it took me 3 hours to go from the A&P in Ortley to Hooper Ave in Toms River the day of the Polar Plunge. As much as I want to support the business community in Seaside there is no way I'd chance going through that nightmare again. Does anyone really believe these agencies are capable of developing a workable traffic plan for St. Patrick's Day?? They won't even answer the phone!

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