By David Cruz
Wherever he goes nowadays Gov. Chris Christie draws a crowd. At today’s announcement, he was joined by mayors from several shore towns and the DOT commissioner, but also by a healthy crowd of locals, out to enjoy an afternoon session of the Chris Christie Restore the Shore Summer Tour.
“It’s tough being the governor. It really is; gotta come down here to Seaside Park in the afternoon. It’s really bad. I’m trying to hang in as best I can,” Christie said.
The governor was here to announce the start of the $265 million Route 35 reconstruction, a plan that attracted some controversy when local businesses complained that the work would keep their customers away during the critical summer months.
“There will be some inconvenience. You need to be ready for that. You don’t rebuild 12.5 miles of highway without there being some inconvenience but we think we put together a plan along with your local officials that’ll minimize the inconvenience as much as possible,” Christie said.
DOT Commissioner James Simpson told residents that the department had heard their concerns and promised to maintain the full complement of travel lanes during the busy summer months. He said the timeline for completion had also been expedited.
“We expect to complete the northern most section of the project covering 3.5 miles in Mantoloking and Bay Head by the summer of 2014 — that’s mile marker 9 to 12.5. The middle and southern sections covering nine miles in Brick, Lavalette, Toms River, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park and Berkeley will be completed by the beginning of the summer of 2015.
Christie said that — despite the Stronger Than the Storm ad campaign that shows the region open for business — he knows that the shore is still suffering, and not forgotten.
“We have to be able to do two things at one time. We have to be able to continue to promote this summer so that these businesses can get the type of income they need to be able to survive, while at the same time acknowledging that we have a lot more work to do to help residents who wanna get back into their homes. And the two don’t need to be in conflict. In fact, I think they’re not,” Christie said.
This was not a campaign event per se, but as the governor finished up his press conference, he hung around and shook almost every hand. As he said, it’s tough being the governor on a sunny afternoon down the shore.