Unmarked Fiber Optic Cable Delays Some of Route 72 Safety Improvements

Project Expected to Take Longer Than Anticipated
By Gina G. Scala | Aug 21, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Stafford Township — The tight and sometimes changing traffic pattern along Route 72 near the Garden State Parkway entrance and exit ramps in Stafford Township isn’t going to magically disappear after Labor Day, despite progress being made on highway and intersection improvements in the area. Steven Schapiro, deputy director of communications for the state Department of Transportation, said the discovery of an unmarked fiber optic cable, which needs to be relocated, is holding up some of the utility work.

“Once the utility work is done, work on the traffic signals can begin,” he said, noting the DOT is also considering drainage improvements that were not part of the original scope of the project. “Those changes will likely extend the project with a new completion by the end of spring next year.”

The $8.6 million federally funded Route 72-East Road project will provide highway and signal intersection improvements to address congestion and safety concerns. Improvements include the addition of a 10-foot shoulder in each direction between the Parkway and Stafford Square shopping center, median widening and new barrier curbs. New traffic signals and roadway improvements at two Route 72 intersections – Roosevelt Boulevard and Doc Cramer Boulevard – are also part of the work.

Construction of a new culvert is complete, according to Schapiro. Nearly 70 percent of a retention basin near the Parkway has also been completed, he said. Earlier this month, work began on relocating West Road from its current position between McDonald’s and Mr. Tire to a new location between Element Restaurant and Starboard Plaza. Washington Road, which runs parallel to Route 72, will end at the new West Road.

The federally funded project began last fall and isn’t connected to the $312 federally funded project to expand and rehab the Causeway to Long Beach Island. That work began in 2013 and is expected to continue through 2022 with the next major phase to begin sometime next year. It 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 LBI.

It’s unclear whether the nighttime work to shut down the left lane in the vicinity of Marsha Drive and Route 72 west on Aug. 15 for guardrail work was part of the final phase of the Causeway project. A crash attenuator, operated by Nicholas Manzoni, 25, of Little Egg Harbor, was struck in the rear as it prepared to set up the left lane closure at about 9:30 p.m., according to Stafford Township police.

Timothy Kohlheim, 36, of Manahawkin, who was driving the 2015 Ford van that struck the construction vehicle, sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Kohlheim owned the Shore Fire Grill restaurants in Manahawkin and Surf City. Manzoni and 24-year-old Ric Peters, also of Little Egg Harbor and a passenger in the attenuator, sustained minor injuries from the collision. They were both transported to Southern Ocean Medical Center for treatment. The area was closed to traffic during the investigation for approximately three hours, according to law enforcement officials. The Stafford Township Volunteer Fire Co., EMS and MONOC paramedics assisted at the scene. The collision remains under investigation by Traffic Safety Officer Justin Pascale.

“It’s always tragic when there is a loss of life on any of New Jersey’s roadways,” Schapiro said. “The Department of Transportation offers its condolences to the family.”

Cedar Bonnet Island. The DOT is investigating options for pedestrian access from eastbound Route 72 between the west and east thorofare bridges, according to Schapiro. There is a sidewalk on the south side of the Causeway from the environmental trail entrance to the West Thorofare Bridge, which goes under the bridge to connect to the sidewalk on the north side.

Currently, residents of Cedar Bonnet Island, including school-age children, must walk in the sole traffic lane of the narrow two-way tunnel road that goes under the Causeway. There are two traffic signals, one for motorists and one for pedestrians/bicyclists, at the north end by the Dutchman’s Restaurant and on the south end near the front yard of a Cedar Bonnet Island residence. The traffic signals are so long that some motorists and pedestrians/bicyclists go against the light and come face-to-face with oncoming traffic that does have the green light.

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

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