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By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY

Installation of long-promised bike racks in Ventnor and Margate won’t be realized soon enough for residents and visitors to enjoy this summer, Downbeach.com has learned.

Ventnor and Margate were awarded a $275,000 grant in 2017 to install bike racks in strategic locations. Two years later, the collaborating municipalities learned they will have to go another summer without an alternate means of transportation for throngs of summer visitors to the Jersey Shore.

“We won’t see bike racks this summer?” Commissioner John Amodeo asked at the Thursday, March 7 Board of Commissioners meeting.

Installation won’t be completed until October, a county official said Friday, March 15.

At the request of this online news source for the Downbeach area, Atlantic County Planning Department on Friday issued an estimated timeline for the purchase and installation of 208 bike racks, which will be installed in 91 locations based on the needs of each community.

City officials and residents in both communities expressed frustration that the project is taking so long.

The cities of Ventnor and Margate partnered on a $275,000 South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization grant to fund the installation of bicycle racks as a way to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles and provide an alternative means of getting around the Downbeach community. The theory is that having ample areas to park bicycles would allow residents and visitors to leave their cars parked in their driveways and use their bicycles as an alternate means of getting out to the beach, shops and restaurants at the height of the summer season when business owners have just 90 days to get in the black.

Margate City engineer Ed Walberg of Remington, Vernick and Walberg, reported in January that both cities were finalizing the locations for the bike racks, and that Margate would get 131 bike racks, while Ventnor would get 77. The decorative racks, which will include an insignia customized for the towns, will accommodate one or two bicycles each, he said, and will be placed in commercial areas, as well as in residential neighborhoods and community gathering places.

At that time, Walberg said coordination between the SJTPO, Atlantic County Planning Department, NJ Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, was moving “at glacier speed,” delaying the project’s completion.

At the most recent commissioners’ meeting, Walberg was a little more hopeful that the city could see a few bike racks installed this summer.

“The installation of these bike racks is very easy,” he said. “We could have a contractor at a street end for two hours, so we could see them this summer without disruption to traffic.”

At their meeting on Feb. 16, leadership of the Margate Homeowners Association told approximately 100 members present that the county was the responsible party to call if they wanted to complain about the delay.

As a temporary measure to appease residents who complained about a lack of parking spaces, Margate installed several bike racks in strategic locations, and last summer installed wooden planks across street-end bulkhead timbers where beachgoers could safely secure their bikes.

According to Commissioner Maury Blumberg, who suggested the measure, the wooden planks would provide a temporary solution until the bike racks could be installed.

The bicycle rack project is a federal project being managed by NJ Department of Transportation and implemented through the Atlantic County Planning Department with input from the towns, Atlantic County spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said previously.

The grant was funded through the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration’s $1.9 million allocation to the SJTPO for fiscal year 2017. The federally-funded project must meet federal guidelines, Gilmore said.

The Atlantic County Planning Department provided the following timeline for the federally-funded project. Gilmore stressed that the timeline is estimated:

  • End of March: Project design documents, including drawings and specifications, will be provided to the state for review and acceptance.
  • Third week of April: Provided the state issues a timely response, final submission for federal authorization to start construction.
  • End of May: Federal authorization for construction is anticipated.
  • End of June: The project will be offered for bids, which are anticipated to be obtained by the end of the month.
  • Early July: Award of construction contract.
  • Early September: Rack purchase and delivery.
  • Mid-October: Completion of the rack installations.

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