Causeway Improvement Project Includes Protecting Northern Diamondback Terrapin

By Gina G. Scala | Jul 17, 2019

Stafford Township — Work to install roughly 3,400 linear feet of fencing on both sides of Route 72 along the right shoulder on Bonnet Island to protect the Northern diamondback terrapin is expected to be completed sometime next month. Once it is, the fencing will run from the east abutment of the main span of the Manahawkin Bay Bridge to the west abutment of the west thorofare bridge.

Stephen Schapiro, deputy director of communications for the state Department of Transportation, said the fencing was expressly included in plans for the $319 million federally funded rehabilitation and expansion of the Causeway to Long Beach Island in an effort to prevent the Northern diamondback terrapins from trying to cross the road in search of a more suitable nesting habitat.

“When the turtles attempt to cross the road, they too often are hit and killed by vehicles,” he said. “In addition, there are turtle warning signs being installed to alert motorists of the possibility of turtles on the roadway.”

The Northern diamondback terrapin is considered a special concern under New Jersey’s conservation status. The term “species of special concern” applies to species requiring special attention because there is some evidence of decline in population, inherent vulnerability to environmental deterioration, or habitat modification that would result in their becoming a threatened species, according to the Conserve Wildlife of New Jersey Foundation. The species is the only turtle that inhabits coastal marches with brackish water for its entire life.

“Construction crews have been very cooperative during construction to try to ensure turtles were safe within the construction zone, moving turtles out of harm’s way if they noticed them,” Schapiro said, noting the DOT works with the state Department of Environmental Protection and Conserve Wildlife to minimize impacts to wildlife where it can. “The turtle signs and the installation of the fencing is one example.”

Work on expanding and rehabbing the Causeway began in 2013. It’s expected to continue through 2022, though the rehabbing of the old Causeway Bridge, which now holds the westbound lanes off the Island, was completed a year ahead of schedule.

State transportation officials have said the next major piece of the nine-year project will address safety and operational issues at the Route 72/Marsha Drive intersection in Stafford Township, as well as operational and drainage improvements in Ship Bottom, the gateway to Long Beach Island.

The Ship Bottom work calls for the widening of approximately 3,000 feet of Eighth and Ninth streets where they intersect with Barnegat and Central avenues and Long Beach Boulevard. The focus of this phase is reconfiguring the Causeway Circle into a square at the Arlington Beach Club, the new condo complex where a long-vacant gas station was previously located.

Squaring off the beach club property to make room for traffic pattern changes on Eighth and Ninth streets will also impact the flow of traffic on the Boulevard and Central Avenue. In front of the former CVS Pharmacy, the Boulevard will be converted into a two-way road. It’s now one-way, north, in that area.

On Central Avenue, a one-way road southbound between Third and 11th streets in Ship Bottom will also be turned into a two-way street. Left traffic turns at Central Avenue where it intersects with Eighth and Ninth streets will be prohibited. Other improvements to the roadway include widening the streets by 13 feet to provide for an additional lane of traffic, an additional 3 feet for the inside shoulder and a new, 8-foot-wider shoulder.

A new storm drainage system and new outfalls will be installed in an effort to reduce frequent flooding along Route 72 where it intersects with Barnegat and Central avenues and the Boulevard. At Marsha Drive, a third lane will be added to Route 72 for a limited distance to help more vehicles travel through the traffic signal there.

The precise timing of the work is subject to change due to weather or other factors. Motorists are encouraged to check the DOT’s traffic information website, 511nj.org, for construction updates and real-time travel information, and for DOT news on Twitter @NJDOT_info.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.