State Hoping to Open Access in July
Stafford Township — Is it or isn’t it? That’s the question being posed regularly by individuals wanting to know whether bicycle and pedestrian access on the Causeway connecting Long Beach Island to the mainland is open to them.
Bicycle and pedestrian access on the Causeway from Stafford Township to Ship Bottom is currently prohibited until the median basin work is completed, which DOT officials expect to be done some time in July, according to Stephen Schapiro, deputy director of communications for the state Department of Transportation.
“Once the basins are complete, traffic will be shifted into the final traffic pattern, which will restore bicycle access across the Causeway Bridge,” Schapiro said. People currently crossing the big bridge on bikes and by foot technically should not be doing so.
Schapiro added, however, that bicycle and pedestrian access from Ship Bottom to the environmental trail on Cedar Bonnet Island is open via a sidewalk.
That sidewalk is located along Route 72 westbound, beginning at Shore Avenue/West Eighth Street in Ship Bottom. After crossing the West Thorofare Bridge, pedestrians and bicyclists can access it via the sidewalk that crosses under the West Thorofare Bridge and follow it along Route 72 eastbound to the beginning of the environmental trail, Schapiro said.
“Once the work on the basins in the Route 72 median on Cedar Bonnet Island and remaining site work in the area is complete in mid-to-late summer, the sidewalk on the westbound side will be finished, providing access along the entire length of the bridges from Stafford to Ship Bottom,” he said.
Currently, the sidewalk across the old Causeway Bridge is closed because paving and site restoration work in the vicinity of the Eastern bridge abutment is not yet complete, according to Schapiro. Once this work is performed, the missing sidewalk section can be installed.
When the full-length sidewalk is complete, pedestrians in Stafford will be able to access the sidewalk from East Bay Avenue. Residents on the eastbound side of Route 72 in the Beach Haven West section of Stafford Township will have the ability to cross under the bridge using the sidewalk that begins at Selma Drive, he said.
Improving conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians falls under the $319 million federally funded Causeway expansion and rehabilitation project. Work began in 2013 and is expected to continue through 2022. The next major piece of the project, expected to begin in the spring, will address safety and operational issues at the Route 72/Marsha Drive intersection in Stafford Township, and operational and drainage improvements in Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island.
That phase of the nine-year project calls for approximately 3,000 feet of Eighth and Ninth streets where they intersect with Barnegat and Central avenues and Long Beach Boulevard to be widened. It’s this phase of the federally funded improvement project that focuses on reconfiguring the Causeway circle into a square at the Arlington Beach Club, the new condo complex where a vacant gas station was previously located.
Squaring off the beach club property makes room for traffic pattern changes on Eighth and Ninth streets, the entrance and exit roadways for LBI from Route 72. It also will change the traffic flow on Central Avenue and on the Boulevard, which will be converted into a two-way road in front of the former CVS.
Central Avenue is currently a one-way road southbound between Third and 11th streets in Ship Bottom before motorists come to the traffic circle. It’s this area that would be turned into a two-way street. Left traffic turns at Central Avenue will be prohibited at the intersection with Eighth and Ninth streets. Other improvements to the roadways include widening the streets by 13 feet to provide for an additional lane of traffic, an additional 3 feet for the inside shoulder and a new 8-foot-wider shoulder.
In addition to the road work, a new storm drainage system and new outfalls will be installed in an effort to reduce frequent flooding along Route 72 where it intersects with Barnegat and Central avenues and the Boulevard. At Marsha Drive, a third lane will be added to Route 72 in each direction for a limited distance to help more vehicles get through the traffic signal there. Marsha Drive will be reconfigured to provide double left-turn lanes onto Route 72.
— Gina G. Scala