By Lauren Wanko
Route 35 has been called the artery of the Jersey Shore, a gateway to the beaches. Construction is slated to start in early summer to rebuild a 12.5-mile stretch of the state highway. The project involves complete reconstruction of the roadway and the drainage system.
“Bay Head desperately needs Route 35 to be redone,” said Bay Head Mayor Bill Curtis. “It’s just the timing is so bad for Bay Head and the businesses and the residents.”
Curtis prefers construction to begin Sept. 3.
“We have two and a half months to make a living in Bay Head. After Labor Day, it dies. And to cut us off in June, July and August, it would just devastate the businesses,” Curtis said.
Broker Peter Zanowic works on Route 35. He worries construction will keep tourists away.
“They’ll be sitting in traffic. They’ll stop coming this way. They’ll go the long way around. They’ll take the Parkway, they’ll go farther down,” Zanowic said.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation says the project was in the works for years but Sandy accelerated the need to start construction now. The storm severely compromised the roadway and destroyed the drainage system.
The DOT provided this statement. “It is very important to get Route 35 reconstructed as quickly as possibly. We don’t want the stresses of another storm like Sandy to further deteriorate Route 35. It could be devastating to the roadway. The schedule we have laid out will enable us to substantially complete the reconstruction of this roadway before the summer of 2015.”
The project is estimated to cost $215 million. The federal government will pick up 80 percent of the cost with the state covering the rest. The project is divided into three sections. Work will span from the border of Point Pleasant Beach to the beginning of Island Beach State Park. The DOT says Route 35 will remain open throughout the construction.
Parking is another major concern. There are 14 businesses located on Route 35 in Bay Head. Almost all of those businesses rely on street parking, like Dr. Gail Zimmerman’s practice.
“Many of my patients are elderly and have difficulty walking. I don’t know where they’re going to park,” Zimmerman said.
But restaurant owner Richard O’Connor doesn’t think his business will take a hit.
“I’m sure they’ll be some delays, detours and everything, but I think in the long run it’s a good thing,” O’Connor said.
“There’s no doubt we need the work done. All the utilities and everything are shot. The road is shot,” said Point Pleasant resident Chris Low.
The DOT has been advertising for bids for first section of the project from Mantoloking through Bay Head. They will be accepting bids until 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 25. They hope to award the contract by the end of May.