By Lauren Wanko
Traffic was an absolute nightmare say local officials and business owners. The ongoing Route 35 reconstruction project backed up motorists for hours.
“Coming north it took three hours for people to get from Seaside to Bay Head,” said Bay Head Mayor Bill Curtis.
“It was terrible. We can’t have a summer like this,” said Realtor Michael Van Sciver.
Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers estimates 15,000 to 17,000 people drove into Seaside Heights on Saturday. He says traffic began building up by about 11 a.m. as drivers were forced to merge into a single lane leading into town. This morning, Mayor Akers called the Department of Transportation for answers.
“We were promised to have two lanes open. There are two lanes coming into Seaside Heights,” Akers said.
Instead construction cones blocked access to the other lane — an absolute shock to the Seaside Heights mayor. He says he coordinated with the DOT’s Route 35 reconstruction manager before the event. The DOT did not return NJTV’s call for comment.
“I took them at their word, that it would be done,” said Akers.
The traffic nightmare comes less then two weeks before another major Seaside Heights event — the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Mayor Akers says shoulder season events like the St. Patrick’s Day parade are vital to businesses in Seaside Heights and in neighboring communities. At Klee’s Bar and Grill, the parade is one of the busiest days of the year.
“To miss something like that is horrible and for people to have a bad experience getting here is our biggest worry,” said Glenn McCarthy.
“It’s killing the businesses. They’re off 30, 40, 50 percent,” Curtis said.
Bay Head’s mayor says the Department of Transportation told local officials the construction will stop before Memorial Day and both lanes will be open for the summer months.
“I’m glad it’s the wintertime, not the summertime and people are getting used to it, but out of town people, they get really frustrated. And they won’t come back and that’s really concerning me,” said Curtis.
Broker Van Sciver says his business is suffering because of the roadwork.
Van Sciver Realtors is on Route 35 in Bay Head. The sidewalk on one side of the street is closed and traffic’s now only moving in one direction.
“The people I think are being put off when they see all the signs coming down here — delay, construction on 35,” Van Sciver said.
Other drivers aren’t as frustrated.
“After the storm, we saw all the devastation there. You knew something had to be fixed and this is the price of getting it fixed,” said Seaside Park resident William Milne.
Still these business owners feel they’re paying the price and they hope by the summer season, drivers will forgot about this winter’s traffic jams.