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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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Wildwood Boardwalk Construction Enters Second Phase

An aerial shot of Wildwood Boardwalk repairs being conducted.

By Christopher South

WILDWOOOD — The city’s Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Aug. 31 to approve a contract for the upcoming work on the refurbishment of the Wildwood Boardwalk. The contract award marks the beginning of Phase II and the next eight blocks of the multi-million-dollar project. 
The project is not funded past 2023, but City Administrator Steve O’Connor said the project positions the city for the receipt of future grant money.
“There is no commitment for funding beyond 2023 from any funding source. But the program makes the city shovel-ready every year for available grant funds. This makes our applications far more competitive,” O’Connor said.   
Mayor Pete Byron said Gov. Phil Murphy visited Wildwood in April 2020 to inspect storm damage to the boardwalk.
Unexpected high winds caused damage from Passaic County down through Cape May County. The unnamed storm and the damage it caused elicited a call from U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd) for the governor to declare a state of emergency. State Sen. Michael Testa described the storm as being kicked while already down from Covid-19. Testa expressed optimism that New Jersey would bounce back from the storm. 
Byron told Murphy the April 2020 storm could have caused catastrophic damage to the boardwalk, and by extension, to the Wildwood economy. 
“I emphasized to the governor the importance of the Wildwood boardwalk to the economy and the tax revenue it generates,” Byron said. 
Murphy asked Byron to come up with a dollar figure and he would see what he could do. When the lower figures came in, Byron said, Murphy told him he couldn’t provide $30 million, but said he would get $4 million in the state budget. So far, the city has received that amount twice. 
“If he remains in office, we could end up getting $20 million over five years for the project,” Byron said. 
Byron said Wildwood would probably not have received that commitment if the governor had not made the trip and seen the boardwalk damage with his own eyes. 
Wildwood also received a USDA grant for $3.25 million for the project. 
The city has completed eight blocks of the project, with new boardwalk decking visible from Oak Avenue to Maple Avenue, of what is now essentially an eight-year project. O’Connor said the eight-year outlook is for a complete rehabilitation that can be completed while ensuring the boardwalk is open for the season. 
The commissioners voted 3-0 to award a nearly $6.5 million contract to Fred M. Schiavone Construction, Inc., of Franklinville, for the next phase of Boardwalk rehabilitation. This phase of the project will include the restoration of the boardwalk from Maple Avenue to 26th Avenue. All the wood decking, handrails and lights, including the access ramps are being replaced. The concrete piers are being refurbished.
“For all intents and purposes, it will be a new boardwalk,” Mayor Pete Byron said. 
Byron said when the city looked at the idea of replacing the boardwalk from the sand up, the cost was projected to be as much as $80 million. He said he asked the engineer to take another look at what needed to be replaced. 
“The pillars are not in terrible condition,” Byron said. 
With the cost reduced to about half of the original estimate, Phase II is just one stage of an estimated $30 million to $40 million project, broken up into five major phases: Oak to Maple, Maple to 26th, Schellenger to Spencer, Spencer to Montgomery, and Cedar and Schellenger Avenues to Oak. 
“We are doing the worst areas first,” Byron said. 
 Byron reemphasized the importance of the Wildwood boardwalk to the regional economy. 
“I challenge anyone to come to Cape May County and not spend one or two nights on the Wildwood boardwalk,” he said. 
Have any thoughts and/or information on this story? Email csouth@cmcherald.com.

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