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Long Beach Blvd Safety Debated at Freeholders Meeting

As promised, Harvey Cedars residents blanket the Ocean County Board of Freeholders meeting with orange t-shirts as they lobby en masse to get Long Beach Boulevard downsized from four lanes to three.

Crowded Ocean County Freeholders Meeting, by T. Mongelli Townsquare Media
Supporters of a plan to make Long Beach Boulevard a three-lane road crowd the Ocean County Freeholders Meeting. (Tom Mongelli Townsquare Media NJ

Harvey Cedars Mayor Jonathan Oldham told the crowd Wednesday that he believes the road reduction would work very well for Harvey Cedars and the north end of the island as well.

He said, “I was not sure that the three lanes would work on the big busy weekends. But actually when I looked at the study and studied it and looked at the simulation I [became]a believer…that this would work and this would be very beneficial to our town.”

However, Long Beach Township Mayor Joe Mancini isn’t convinced that lane reduction is the answer.

“My suggestion is to really enforce the speed limits,” he offered, ”and…possibly lower the speed limits.” He also believes that the addition of more traffic signals may help improve safety.

Traffic study consultant Louis Luglio of Stantec Consulting, which conducted a study of the road for the county, told the assemblage that three traffic signals and clearly-marked pedestrian crossings have achieved the goals of greater safety and minimal time disruptions.

But residents who want the roadway downsized say that those remedies address crossing the Boulevard, while doing little to protect people who walk, jog and bike parallel to traffic.

Ocean County Freeholder Director John Kelly told the gathering that as Public Safety Liaison, the protections matter to him as well. He advocated the construction of sidewalks, eliciting groans from those in the crowd who contend that private ownership right up to the tar leave no room for them.

The freeholders say the construction of sidewalks is a municipal matter not a county matter.

Proponents and critics weighted their arguments, resulting in a flood of e-mails to county officials. Freeholders fielded over 140 from The Loveladies Property Owners Association and Harbor Association opposed to reducing the boulevard to three lanes.

Freeholders say the other roadblock to reducing the size of Long Beach Boulevard has to do with federal funding. They say the four lane road configuration was financed with money from Washington and if they alter the Boulevard, they’d be responsible to repay the federal government.

The ad-hoc activists left the meeting deflated, yet still determined. “Just try it,” pleaded one homeowner. “If it doesn’t work, you can always change it back.”

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