On February 20, 2013, Governor Christie announced the Rt 35 project, a $215 million rebuild of the 12.5 mile stretch of state road from Bay Head to Island Beach State Park in Ocean County. The governor’s promise that the state would “rebuild better” and that the project would “improve on what we had before” was put to the test by state and local advocates, including NJBWC. DOT’s press release announced that the project “includes construction of Complete Streets features on state-owned land to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists in a safe manner.” However, the first advertised bids only included replacement of sidewalk and curb where required; no bike lanes were in the designs. On March 29, 2013, NJBWC met in Lavallette with local bike and pedestrian advocates and environmental advocates who are concerned about the project’s proposed storm drainage system. The group toured the entire section of roadway and discussed ways that bike lanes and natural rain filtration components could be added to the roads.
As NJBWC and our partners obtained a commitment in January 2013 from Commissioner Simpson that all hurricane-related rebuild efforts would follow the state’s complete streets policy, it is imperative that the state stand by that commitment.
In July 2013, NJBWC and Tri-State Transportation Campaign attended a public session held in Lavallette, where designs were shown to residents and vacationers to the area. However, these plans were no different than the set of plans that we reviewed in March. We asked our readers to send letters to NJDOT requesting traffic calming measures for this high speed roadway. Over 250 letters were sent to Commissioner Simpson requesting bike lanes.
With no progress being shown by NJDOT, NJBWC and Tri-State went to the press, calling this project a litmus test for the state’s Complete Streets policy and suggesting that DOT should simply tear up their policy if they could not adhere to it. We also pointed out that the bicycle riders were already there, and that this would be a missed opportunity if not done as part of the project.
In late July, our partners at Tri-State and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia joined us in a letter to Gov. Christie, holding him to his promise to “rebuild better and stronger” and to “improve on what we had before.” We pointed out that a complete streets implementation should be considered as part of the recovery of the region. We also sent a letter to the editor of nj.com, making the case for bike lanes along Rt 35 without the purchase of private property, NJDOT’s argument against adding bike lanes.
NJBWC and our partners continued our advocacy among the communities along this corridor, providing advice and assistance to local residents who wanted to see these changes. One by one, town by town, resolutions got passed supporting bike lanes and sidewalks through the towns.
On April 1, 2014, NJDOT announced changes to the RT 35 project, including 12.5 miles of bike lanes!
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After rendering thanks to Janna Chernetz/Tri-State Transportation Campaign
We were ecstatic! They also released details of the bicycle accommodations for the project. NJBWC and our partners issued a joint press release stating our agreement with the implementation. Read the blog post from Asbury Park Press and the front page article in The Star Ledger, complete with our pictures!
With Bay Head’s inclusion of sharrows on Rt 35, thereby extending the bike lanes from Island Beach State Park all the way north through Bay Head, it brings the Rt 35 project to eight municipalities along this corridor! Taking into account the fact that the bike lanes run in both directions along Route 35, this give cyclists a full 25 miles of roadway to safely enjoy. NJBWC would like to thank Go Bay Head! and other local advocates for their support in bringing about these changes.
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After rending thanks to John Boyle/Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia