BELMAR, NJ — After hearing from residents in Belmar’s southern end, the borough council has decided to keep one-way traffic flowing westbound on 19th Avenue and eastbound on 20th Avenue.
During a community meeting on May 14, nearly two dozen people expressed their opinions on which directions both one-way streets in Belmar should run. The majority voiced their support for having 19th Avenue go westbound and 20th eastbound — the directions they have run for decades during the busy summer season before an ordinance approved last October reversed the flow on these two streets, based on a recommendation by Belmar Police Chief Andrew Huisman.
“This is a personal issue to each and every one of you. With no disrespect to Chief Huisman, these comments have been extremely helpful,” said Nicolay, noting that the borough has also received numerous text messages and emails in support of keeping 19th westbound and 20th eastbound. “For quality of life, (19th and 20th) should stay the same.”
Mayor Brian Magovern, and Councilmen Mark Walsifer and Mark Levis also agreed to have 19th Avenue westbound and 20th Avenue eastbound, during the one-hour meeting attended by nearly 100 persons.
In addition, Magovern and Walsifer also voiced their support of continuing a practice implemented by Huisman last summer to alleviate late-night bar traffic, including ride-sharing vehicles, in that area of town. Beginning at 10 p.m. on weekends, traffic cones were placed at 19th and Ocean Avenues, preventing traffic particularly from D’Jais Bar and Grill from exiting Belmar and Lake Como through that neighborhood.
With the council’s latest vote, Borough Attorney Gregory Cannon has been directed to revise the current ordinance, which must then proceed through the full approval process.
However due to the construction of the Lake Como outfall pipe during the off-season, the ordinance approved in October has not been put in place. Instead, traffic on 19th Avenue has continued to go westbound, and two-way traffic has been allowed on 20th Avenue.
But now the pipeline project is nearing completion and the start of the summer season, which brings chronic traffic and parking congestion on residential streets in this beachfront community, is only weeks away.
In evaluating summertime traffic patterns, Chief Huisman has been pushing to keep the new ordinance as currently written — making 19th Avenue one-way eastbound and 20th Avenue westbound.
During the summer, increased traffic and speeding along 19th Avenue have been chronic problems, as beach and bar traffic use the roadway as a thoroughfare to exit Belmar. However, 19th Avenue is a dead-end street westbound, forcing traffic onto Greenwood Terrace and particularly Bradley Terrace in neighboring Lake Como — both extremely narrow two-way streets — raising safety concerns and gridlock issues from residents.
On the other hand, 20th Avenue merges westbound onto North Boulevard, which continues to Main Street, making it easier for motorists exiting town, he has explained.
Although Huisman did not attend the May 14 community meeting, residents primarily on 20th Avenue maintained making 20th Street westbound would create a “traffic nightmare” at the triangle of North Boulevard, 20th Avenue and A Street.
For the handful of 19th Avenue residents who agreed with Chief Huisman’s assessment of the traffic situation — but acknowledging they were in the minority of those attending the meeting — they voiced their support of continuing to close off the street on the weekends after 10 p.m.
It is the second time that residents have expressed their opposition to making 19th Avenue eastbound and 20th Avenue westbound. Immediately after the ordinance was passed last fall, then-Mayor Matthew Doherty said that 19th Avenue would remain westbound and 20th eastbound based on resident feedback, but the law was not changed back — resulting in this latest effort.
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