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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Complete NJ Route 55

By Sean Donovan, Villas

To the Editor:

The entire Route 55 corridor from I-76 in Bellmawr to Route 147 in North Wildwood should be federalized and incorporated into the Interstate Highway System so that this roadway can be completed. The southern end of this highway presently terminates near Port Elizabeth in Maurice River Township where it discharges into the completely overwhelmed Route 47 Delsea Drive. Completion of Route 55 was canceled in the mid-1970s due to purported concerns about the environment, but actually travel on poor roads hurts the environment much more so than new construction. There is precedence for this plan in Louisiana where the corridor for State Highway Route 90 was federalized and upgraded to interstate standards as I-49. There’s also precedence for protecting the wetlands in Louisiana where Interstate 10 is completely elevated over Atchafalaya River basin east of Lafayette. In South Jersey, the new I-76 to North Wildwood would be elevated over all wetlands and any sensitive woodland areas.

Families have been driving to the Jersey Shore for over 100 years now, and they will be driving down the shore for the next 100 years whether their cars are propelled by ammonia, methanol, or battery packs.  Furthermore, great qualities of over-the-road freight must be moved along Route 47 Delsea Drive, which is completely inadequate for this task. Stop-and-go driving along the present route greatly increases energy usage no matter what the source may be. Likewise, brake dust emissions are also greatly increased, as is general wear and tear on all vehicles. A new limited access interstate highway will be far more safer, restore small town life along Delsea Drive, and protect and improve the environment through greater efficiency in the use of energy and material resources.

To connect this highway from Port Elizabeth to North Wildwood will require in the neighborhood of 30 miles of new construction. The proposed route will lie to the northeast of the currently used Rt. 47 and Rt. 347 East Creek Mill Road. At South Dennis the right of way will turn south southwest staying to the east of Rt. 47. It will go down to Burleigh where it will connect with the very near interstate standard Route 147 into North Wildwood. The towns of Cape May Court House and Rio Grande will be completely avoided due to their well-developed shopping districts. It is very important to terminate in the Wildwoods due to their large population influxes. The section of the North-South Freeway Rt. 42 presently connecting I-76 to Rt. 55 in Bellmawr would also be federalized. The entire highway will be designated Interstate 76.

Three highway interchanges will need to be constructed. The first will be north of Port Elizabeth just to the east of where Route 55 currently terminates. The second will be east of Dennisville. The third and final interchange will be in Burleigh, which will provide feeders to Cape May Court House and Rio Grande.

One previous proposal claimed it would take 20 years to complete Route 55 southward. This is patently ridiculous. The entire Atlantic City Expressway was built in three years, and the Pentagon was built in 16 months. In the oil field, there are 168 hours in a work week, not 40. This interstate extension should be constructed with four shifts working 40 hours each per week, along with alternating shifts of working 12 hours on, 12 hours off, two weeks on, and two weeks off. A base camp will need to be established near Woodbine to provide lodging, laundry, and hot meals for all highway workers. The time is now to start negotiating with the construction unions and road building contractors. Establish four years as the target for completion.

Federalizing Route 55 will provide new employment, educational, and recreational opportunities for everyone in proximity of the right of way. This will not only raise standards of living, but also quality of life. Increased opportunities will allow more people to live up to their potential and achieve self-actualization. If Elon Musk can fly to Mars, South Jersey can complete Interstate 76 to the sea.

SEAN DONOVAN

Villas

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