The state Department of Transportation may be ready to begin its Route 35 improvement project in Ocean County about a year from now, but some local towns' sections of the state highway may not be improved until 2017.
The project , where barrier island residents were worried that the potential installation of curbs and some eminent domain takings alongside the roadway could mean less room for parking.
But work on that portion of the project – the third of three phases – may not begin until 2017.
The initial phase of the improvement project, which will be a major, full-depth roadway rehabilitation and resurfacing, is funded in the state's 2013 capital budget, said Tim Greeley, NJDOT spokesman.
That phase of the project will cover the area from the border of Point Pleasant Beach and Bay Head through Mantoloking. NJDOT has completed the design phase of that portion of the project, and it wil begin as early as fall 2013.
"We are currently working with NJDEP on the process of finalizing the necessary environmental permits for the project," said Greeley.
The next phase would be the southernmost portion of the highway, from Island Beach State Park, through the Seasides up to the border with Toms River's barrier island section. That phase is slated to begin in 2015.
The final phase, through the middle of the barrier island — Toms River and Brick's portions of the highway is on track to begin in 2017, Greeley said.
All of those dates are pending the availability of funding, he said.
"NJDOT is fully aware of the importance of Route 35 as the main artery for year-round residents in this area, as well as for summer tourists reaching their vacation destinations," said Greeley. "These projects are being designed with that in mind and the construction schedule will reflect that importance. Every effort will be made to limit the impact to local residents and businesses."
The Brick controversy began at a recent township council meeting when residents voice concerns about the project.
Township business administrator Scott Pezarras said the state has indicated it may need to use the power of eminent domain to take certain spaces adjacent to the highway, including locations where some residents park. He also said many residents have "infrastructure" within a state-owned right-of-way along the road, including flower beds, post rail fences and gardens, which would have to be removed.