By Dari Kotzker
Route 35 in Ocean County is getting a makeover. Gov. Chris Christie, along with Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, announced today that the entire 12.5 mile stretch between Point Pleasant Beach and the entrance of Island Beach State Park will be rebuilt. Although the state roadway is open, it was seriously damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The governor says work will include getting under the entire driving surface and putting in a new drainage system.
“New pipes will be installed underground including a new underground storm water drainage system, and then contractors will replace the concrete road with a thick stable stone base, topped with asphalt making it more strong and more resilient than the road that was here before,” Christie said.
“I’m very happy. As I said we’ve been promised this project for 10 years at least and it always kept getting knocked down on the priority list. We’re just happy that it’s going to finally happen. This storm did a lot of damage, so it’s appropriate that it gets moved up to number one,” said Lavallette Mayor Walter Lacicero.
Construction will cost approximately $215 million of federal transportation funds. The project will be divided into three phases and the first request for bids go out next month. The Department of Transportation says this type of undertaking would normally take six years to complete, but will now be two and a half.
“NJDOT will work closely with all the local officials here to minimize the inconveniences that go along with a project of this magnitude, another reason why we’re doing it in stages. This project is important as a symbol for the region and for all those who still face the uphill challenge of rebuilding,” Christie said.
Commissioner Simpson says there will be construction activity during this upcoming summer season and the next one, so the project can be completed by the summer of 2015.
“Normally the DOT avoids construction activity in New Jersey’s vacation and tourism destinations and the shore during the summer months, but we can’t this time. But this summer will be characterized — it’s a little different this year — with a mixture of vacationers as well as construction activity to homeowners, businesses and the DOT with this total reconstruction,” Simpson said.
“We are used to traffic, it’s not uncommon, and if it’s because of construction and the bettering of the roads, you can’t complain. You shouldn’t complain,” said Seaside Heights resident Melissa Nelson.
The governor reiterated that the federal funds are being used to make the state’s infrastructure better.
“What we’re trying to do is to modernize our systems down here to protect ourselves — whether it’s dune systems, whether it’s drainage systems, whether it’s pumping stations — to try to protect what we have here to make sure that we don’t have a similar type of result. I want that done as quickly as possible,” Christie said.