By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – With residents clamoring for a boardwalk on the landward side of the sand dune, the Board of Commissioners is looking to the backbay area to erect a boardwalk promenade in the Amherst Avenue marina district.
The commissioners heard a presentation from planners Arthur W. Ponzio and Jon Barnhart of Arthur W. Ponzio Co. & Associates, Inc. of Atlantic City, Thursday, Aug. 1 on the city’s plan to raise its bayfront bulkhead and erect a boardwalk-styled promenade.
“The continuity of the design, layout and elevation will make it as inviting and beautiful as possible. It can visually and physically be a be a significant asset for the city if it is created like a boardwalk,” Ponzio said. “We believe it is an exceptional project at the end of the day.”
Phase I of the project, which would include replacing approximately 500 feet of city-owned bulkhead and ugrades to the electrical systems feeding the marinas, could be completed by May 2020, with Phase II completing construction of the promenade starting in fall 2020.
Barnhart said splitting the project into two phases would prevent construction from “bleeding into your season.”
Barnhart said the firm considered building the promenade out of concrete, but the new bulkhead pilings can easily support a boardwalk.
“If we put concrete back with some nice railing it will look like what you had, just wider,” he said.
The boardwalk promenade will be elevated 2 feet above the existing parking area, and two feet below the bulkhead, which will be erected at elevation 8 feet.
The commissioners have yet to decide on the materials and amenities to be provided on the pedestrian walkway, which will span the area from the Sprinkles to the Longport border.
The boardwalk could have an aluminum or stainless-steel open railing on the street side to protect sunset views, while the bay side railing would have cables for fall protection, Barnhart said.
Downward facing LED lighting fixtures will be located every 50 feet to make it “bright and safe” for pedestrians, without impacting homeowners who live across Amherst Avenue, he said. Light standards will be able to hold banners and holiday lighting.
Other suggested amenities include decorative trash receptacles and benches.
The project includes rebuilding 500 feet of city-owned bulkhead and installing stairs to the promenade near marina access points. Ponzio recommended striping the roadway to improve road safety and installing of ADA crosswalks and ramps to the boardwalk at the Jefferson, Madison and Monroe Avenue intersections.
Barnhart said some utility poles must be relocated and utilities leading to the marinas upgraded.
With Phase I of the project covering bulkhead installation after the summer season, the commissioners have plenty of time to decide if the roadway should be striped to include a bike lane. Because the existing 90-degree parking spaces along the promenade will be maintained, parking on the ocean side of Amherst Avenue may have to be eliminated to accommodate a bike lane and make the roadway safer, officials said.
Engineer Ed Dennis of Remington, Vernick & Walberg, said the lanes of traffic could be narrowed to 10 or 11 feet to calm traffic.
“The safest way for a bike lane to be there is to eliminate the parking and have a two-lane bike lane, if we decide to put a bike lane in,” Police Chief Matthew Hankinson said.
Commissioner John Amodeo the city should consider the ramifications of installing a bike lane for a seven-block area.
“You can’t just dead-end it,” he said.
“I think it deserves some attention,” Mayor Michael Becker said. “I’m on Amherst Avenue almost every weekend morning and if you want to see an adventure, just go down there.”
Having a bike lane is not the entire answer, it’s getting the bikers to stay in the lanes, he said.
“You’ve put a lot of options out for us and we need to take time to look at it, which we have if we do it in two phases,” City Administrator Richard Deaney said.
Ponzio will provide the city with a budget and a work schedule by Tuesday, Aug. 6.
Deaney said he needs that information as soon as possible to prepare introduction of a capital bond ordinance appropriating the funds needed for Phase I of the project at the next commission meeting on Aug. 15. He anticipates going out to bid for the project in September.
Solicitor John Scott Abbott suggested the city work on getting easements, if necessary, from any affected property owners who have riparian rights.
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