County to Eliminate 2 Lanes of West Avenue Traffic for Bike Route by Summer

first_imgThe four-lane West Avenue between 35th and 55th streets will be restriped to make one lane in each direction with buffered bike lanes on each side of the road.A plan to eliminate two lanes of traffic on West Avenue south of 34th Street in Ocean City and replace them with two buffered bicycle lanes is expected to be complete by Memorial Day.Cape May County awarded a $164,334 contract last week to Zone Striping Inc. of Glassboro to do the job. The company was the lowest of three bidders.The work most likely will begin in May, after a “notice to proceed” is issued, according to County Engineer Dale Foster.The plan eliminates two lanes of traffic on the county-owned roadway to make room for a bicycle route.The project will change the road from four lanes of traffic (two in each direction) to one in each direction with a center lane for left turns. That will leave room for five-foot bike lanes on each side of the road separated by three-foot buffer zones (see diagram below).The reconfiguration would be a milestone in a years-long effort to create a safe bicycle route running the length of Ocean City. It also marks a major change for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who travel the south end of the island.Advocates say changing West Avenue to two lanes — in addition to providing safer bicycle lanes — would help improve a dangerous four-lane crossing for pedestrians on the busy thoroughfare, where drivers often flout the 35 mph speed limit and fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.Others have expressed concern that the change would slow summer traffic and possibly push through-traffic onto adjacent Asbury and Central avenues. Some say they fear the increased bicycle traffic more than the vehicle traffic — with summer cyclists often disregarding the rules of the road.“I’ve heard both sides of the issue,” said Councilman Pete Guinosso, representative of the Fourth Ward, where the project will take place. “I think it’s about 50-50.”He said he’s spoken to the Ocean City Police Department about the traffic analysis and shares a hope that “for pedestrians, it’s going to be a little safer.”Ocean City Police Capt. Steve Ang said the department foresees increased safety for cars, bicycles and pedestrians.He said the single lane of traffic in each direction would have a “calming effect,” slowing speeds down and providing a safer environment for the bicycle lanes.Ang also said a pedestrian crossing of only one lane in each direction would eliminate the risks involved when cars use a second lane to slingshot past other cars that are stopped at pedestrian crosswalks.He said the department doesn’t anticipate any major traffic delays in the summer and never saw issues when a stretch of West Avenue between 34th Street and 10th Street was similarly reconfigured.Foster said the county conducted a traffic study not only to plan the reconfiguration but to provide a baseline to measure against future studies of traffic patterns on the south end — if changes are necessary.He said the summer bottlenecks typically occur at the traffic light at 34th Street and not in the travel lanes farther south.“I hope it slows down traffic and helps with people not stopping for pedestrians,” said Lisa Patrone, who lives at 49th Street and Haven Avenue and often walks to the beach with her 6-year-old child. “The downtown survives with one lane.”“I’m all for it,” said Darren Keir, who lives with his family at 50th Street and Haven Avenue. “It’s hard enough going to the beach with the kids as it is.”Keir said he hopes the change slows down traffic and that if the trip to 34th Street takes a couple extra minutes, it would be a good tradeoff.The project will provide a missing link in a north-to-south bicycle route the length of Ocean City.An existing bicycle corridor runs along Haven Avenue from Ninth Street to 34th Street. The city recently installed a new user-activated traffic signal to help bicycles cross the busy Ninth Street gateway, and the city has plans for improvements on the north end of Ocean City.“I am thrilled,” said Tom Heist, a member of Bike OCNJ and a long-time advocate for the creation of safe routes in town. “I think this is a huge win for all bikers, but especially the most vulnerable, children and elderly. It gives them a nice area that’s separated from the opening of car doors. A lot of bike lanes are inherently dangerous, and we’ve really spent a lot of time making sure this is designed properly.”“This project will make Ocean City bike-friendly from end to end,” Heist said.Proposed new configuration for West Avenue in Ocean City between 35th and 55th streets includes two buffered bicycle lanes.last_img read more