By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – The city held the first of two online meetings mid-day Tuesday, Dec. 15 to explain and solicit feedback from residents about the planned road diet project on Atlantic Avenue. More than 100 people attended the virtual meeting and about two dozen residents asked questions and provided their opinions about the project.
Engineer Ed Dennis of Remington & Vernick explained the project, which would turn Atlantic Avenue, currently a four-lane roadway into a two-lane road with a center turn lane, which would provide a “refuge” area for pedestrians and enhanced bike lanes.
The road currently has 11-foot wide travel lanes, 5-foot bike lanes and 8-foot parking lanes. Pedestrians currently cross the 70-foot wide roadway that has multi-lane threats and conflict points without a refuge area, Dennis said.
The proposed project, which Dennis said is not “set in stone,” would incorporate road striping that would widen bike lanes to 10 feet and incorporate a 12-foot wide center turn lane that includes areas for vehicles to make left-hand turns and refuge areas for pedestrians crossing the street.
Dennis said traffic engineer Derrick Kennedy conducted a traffic study during peak Saturday afternoons in July. The study also evaluated the impact of the road diet now and in future years.
“Hard data supports the road diet,” he said.
Kennedy said that over the last five years, 10% of all crashes were bicycle or pedestrian related.
Margate Police Chief Matt Hankinson said although traffic accidents have been down over the last several years, most of the complaints received at the Police Department involve residents saying they almost got hit trying to cross Atlantic Avenue.
Residents questioned the impact the road diet would have when traveling into Ventnor City, which currently has the same configuration as Margate. Over the last two years, both towns have reduced the speed limit to 25-miles-per-hour.
Dennis said the city has been in discussions with Ventnor officials about instituting the road diet there. Atlantic City is in the engineering phase of instituting a road diet, he said.
Dennis said the traffic study indicated there would be no change in the “level of service” on Atlantic Avenue. The roadway is currently rated “A” status, which would be maintained after the striping project, he said. However, it would cause delays for motorists entering or exiting the roadway, although other future upgrades to the roadway could “dramatically improve the delay.”
The project will cost $400,000 to implement but will be partially funded through a NJ Department of Transportation grant totaling $273,642. He said a contract to do the work must be awarded before the grant expires at the end of 2021.
The city is hoping to do the project in spring and it will take four-six weeks to complete the project.
Using the road diet grant would help eliminate some of the cost of the routine re-striping of Atlantic Avenue.
Residents expressed concern the project would slow traffic, forcing motorists to use other cross-town roadways, such as Amherst, Monmonth and Winchester avenues instead. Others questioned the timing of the project during the COVID-19 crisis.
However, Hankinson said there was more traffic in the city starting in March as out-of-town property owners flocked to the shore to ride out the pandemic. He said the city saw a marked increase in public services and water usage over the summer.
Resident Jay Weintraub, who heads the Margate Homeowners Association supported the project. He said a survey conducted by the organization returned 210 responses, of which 85% mentioned traffic safety, “particularly on Atlantic Avenue,” as a major concern.
He said the project could “save a life.”
Resident Jason Brajer said he would be “thrilled” to see wider bike lanes.
Other bicycle enthusiasts who supported the road diet also requested additional signage informing bike riders they must obey traffic regulations and inform pedestrians to be cautious entering the roadway.
Others said the project would provide enhanced safety for pedestrians and more visibility for drivers, and several said the police should issue more traffic tickets to discourage speeding.
A resident, identified only as Dave, said, “Everything seems fine. Why screw it up?”
A second meeting is scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16. Access to the meeting is posted on the margate-nj.com website. Attendees may have to download the GoToMeeting app to access the meeting. Documents will be posted to the margate-nj.com website.
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