WARETOWN, NJ – Anyone who travels down Volunteer Way to the Ocean County Training Center knows the story. As it currently exists, the road abruptly ends, and the only way out is to return to Route 9. Ocean Township officials have already started the permit process to establish another outlet. However, they’ll first need to accommodate some snakes.
Whenever changes are made to roadways, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) gets involved. In this case, there are a few issues. One is the necessity to include drainage basins. The other? Nothing can be changed without proper allowances – for pine snakes, that is.
According to Diane B. Ambrosio, Township Administrator/Township Clerk, the township has already expended $47K to obtain permits from the DEP. She’s fairly certain the state agency will deny the permit. If that happens, the township loses the money.
“We can pull the permit back and decide what we want to do,” shared Ambrosio. “We then have a year to decide what we want to do.”
Ambrosio said the state doesn’t think the township needs further access on the road. Instead, they’ve suggested improvements could be made on Route 532. From all appearances, the recommendation was made without anyone coming to even look at the area.
In a recent meeting with DEP representatives, Ambrosio and Mayor Ken Baulderstone disagreed. “We told them that they don’t know our town and our needs,” Ambrosio stated.
The DEP has requested that the township submit additional studies regarding Volunteer Way. This includes traffic studies and design changes. The township’s original design plans included a means of creating snake tunnels. However, the DEP is insisting on box culverts as the only alternative. This will add substantial expense to the project, as the road will also need to be elevated.
Faced with a potential price tag of $8M, Committeeman Ben Loparo expressed concerns about the cost. “Can we put this on the ballot and let the taxpayers decide?” he asked.
By the summer, township officials hope to have a clearer idea as to what the cost will be to create an outlet on the other end of Volunteer Way. It would provide access to the Town Center Shopping Center, as well as an additional means of getting to Greenbriar. A referendum may be placed on the ballot to be decided by the people it impacts.