By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – City commissioners are planning two special meetings in early December on the Zoom platform to educate the public and obtain input on the city’s plans to implement a “road diet” on Atlantic Avenue.
What’s a road diet, you ask?
According to the NJ Department of Transportation, four-lane, undivided roads are prone to having crashes, especially as a result of left-hand turns when volumes increase.
Anyone who’s tried to cross Atlantic Avenue at the height of summer knows how difficult it is to get across the street with beach gear in tow. Additionally, the state law that gives pedestrians the right of way and requires vehicles to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, is an accident waiting to happen. Although a vehicle in the passing lane may stop, a driver in the slow lane may not see a pedestrian trying to cross the street.
The current roadway configuration has two lanes of traffic in each direction that reduces to two lanes in Longport, with bike lanes and on-street parking on both sides of the street.
The road diet would reduce Atlantic Avenue to one lane of traffic in each direction with a center turn lane and would help reduce speed and improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“We will present the concept, the pros and cons, safety benefits and make sure the public is informed,” Engineer Ed Dennis said. “It would help guide us on if we should move forward with this project, which received DOT funding in 2020.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration, road diets are becoming standard practice across the country. In the last five years, New Jersey has completed 47 road diets on state, county or local roads.
The city partnered with neighboring Ventnor City on the “Ventnor-Margate Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan,” which asked the public during two information sessions held in spring 2016 to identify areas where traffic safety could be improved for pedestrians and cyclists. The idea was to work together to develop a multi-jurisdictional bicycle and pedestrian circulation plan that would make it easier and safer for all modes of transportation.
Both communities have moved to implement some of the recommendations in the report. Ventnor City reduced the speed limit on Atlantic Avenue to 25 miles-per-hour and added bike lanes early last summer, and Margate recently completed traffic calming measures around the city schools and striped “sharrows” (share the road arrows) on certain streets.
The city has been discussing the project for the past year since it was awarded a $273,642 grant to restripe the roadway within two years.
The city plans two virtual meetings to present the plan and garner feedback from residents in the afternoon and evening hours during the first weeks of December. Exact dates have yet to be confirmed.
Commissioner Maury Blumberg Thursday said he is very concerned that once the work is started, residents who return to their summer homes in June 2021 will wonder what happened to the city while they were gone.
Dennis said he would create a one-page flyer for distribution to the community.
Blumberg said in addition to the normal communication channels, such as press releases, flyers, and posting on the city website and Facebook page, more needs to be done to educate the public, including spending approximately $3,800 to do a mailing to all taxpayers.
“I think it’s that important that every taxpayer and resident should know what we are thinking about doing here,” he said.
If not, Blumberg believes people will complain to commissioners if they are not satisfied with the results of the project.
“They will say, ‘You had a meeting in December, and nobody was here, and we will be run out of town. I don’t want to be run out of town, I love it here,” he said.
City officials discussed doing a robo call and possibly sending out postcards alerting residents to log onto the meeting.
Commissioner John Amodeo suggested distributing flyers at area businesses and Police Chief Matt Hankinson suggested communication through the city’s email database.
“The more information we get out to the public, the better off we are,” Mayor Michael Becker said.
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