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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Commonwealth Avenue Plans Draw Crowd

By Camille Sailer

SEA ISLE CITY – The Sea Isle City Welcome Center was the site April 20 of county and municipal officials joining Strathmere and Sea Isle City residents to learn more about plans to change lane-striping along Commonwealth Avenue. The road joins the two communities, both of which had posted the proposals on their websites. 
County Engineer Dale Foster noted, “Strathmere residents have been asking for a while to make Commonwealth Avenue safer for bikers and pedestrians.”
He said the format of the meeting was for participants to examine the eight proposed plans to shift lanes and eliminate or use differently the shoulders on both sides of this county road.
There was an aerial view of the highway (which stretched the length of several conference tables) to pinpoint locations and provide as much information.
“We are trying very hard to get as much input as possible regarding people’s opinions about the various options; we called on Strathmere’s three community associations to get the word out, and for Sea Isle City we sent an email to each resident about the different proposals for today’s meeting,” Foster said.
Participants were given green and red sticker dots to attach to the posters showing each of the proposals, thereby indicating approval or dissent.
A plan which was covered in red sticker dots reflected dissatisfaction with any outcome that would eliminate both shoulders of the road.
Sea Isle City City Council member Jack Gibson, a municipal engineer in Dennis Township, said, “That plan would have driveways of property owners along that stretch of the road in Strathmere enter right into the highway.”
Also present was Freeholder Will Morey, who is responsible for county roads.
Ed Barr, deputy mayor of Upper Township, which includes Strathmere, provided additional background, “Upper really does not have a direct say in what the county will eventually do with Commonwealth.
“We will be making our own suggestions, however, and one plan that looks good is taking the oceanside shoulder and making that just for pedestrians and bikers and taking the bayside shoulder for parking. Our main concern is safety for all, including beachgoers who park their cars.
“Pedestrian crossings will be there for them, and the main thing is to educate everyone about any changes. Perhaps, just like some right-turn-on-red signals which only operate during the summer, any modifications might also be only for the summer since the problems only arise 10-15 weekends each year.”
At the April 9 Upper Township Committee meeting, Foster noted that the April 20 meeting was being held at Sea Isle City to facilitate attendance for Strathmere residents who would not need to travel to Petersburg, the location of Upper’s municipal building.
Responding to a question on April 9 from Strathmere resident, Ted Kingston, that Strathmere input might not be taken into account, Foster noted, “You do not need to be concerned that your voice will not be heard.”
Foster said April 20 “We want to make Commonwealth safer for walkers and bikers. We are offering eight alternatives, none of which will totally satisfy everyone, but we think all have their advantages. We are being assisted by NV5, engineering consultants who have deep experience with pedestrian and bicycle safety.”
Several Strathmere residents suggested that the density of summer traffic along Commonwealth Avenue be reduced by eliminating parking along the roadway.
Foster added that the paint station along Commonwealth could accommodate a parking lot. He then summed up the county’s intentions, “We’re hoping that we get a clear sense of direction at this meeting and will then be able to quickly implement the plan to improve safety.”
To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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