BELMAR, NJ — Conditions are heating up at the intersection of 19th Avenue and B Street, and it has nothing to do with the weather. Rather, it’s the result of a traffic plan change recently put into place by Lake Como for the summer.
In Lake Como, 19th Avenue from Bradley Terrace to B Street has gone from two ways to eastbound only. In Belmar, 19th Avenue from Ocean Avenue to B Street remains westbound. There are opposing “Do Not Enter” signs posted at the intersection. And B Street, the dividing line between both towns, is one-way southbound.
According to neighborhood residents, the traffic pattern has caused confusion for motorists who find themselves at the intersection and not knowing where to turn — concerns that they voiced at the Belmar Council’s July 11 meeting.
“People come down the street and have nowhere to go,” said Bruce Estler, a B Street resident. "You are taking three main streets and putting them at loggerheads. It’s absolute mayhem, and it’s ruining our neighborhood.”
Jim Lang of 19th Avenue who lives on the corner on B Street, said that the confusion is compounded by motorists who are not familiar with the area. “Many are making last-minute decisions on where to turn. It’s an unsafe corner,” he said.
Kelly Lang, his wife, invited the council members to join her on their front porch to observe the traffic situation. “I’m at ground zero. I’ve lived here for 17 years and the street has always been a problem. This may be a good opportunity, since the police is under one umbrella, to look at both communities’ (streets) as a grid.”
Peter Piro of North Boulevard, who also spoke out at Lake Como’s Borough Council meeting last month, brought those concerns to the Belmar Council meeting. “Traffic on B Street has substantially increased,” he said, asserting that Lake Como illegally put up the “Do Not Enter” signs on Belmar’s side of 19th Avenue. He asked the Belmar Council to have the signs removed.
Mayor Matthew Doherty rejected that request, responding that taking down the signs would not benefit anyone. “Our best approach is to work with Lake Como,” he said, adding that ultimately 19th Avenue has to be one way in one direction for the entire length. “I’ve been on 19th Avenue. There is nowhere to go. It makes no sense.”
Doherty said he plans on talking with Lake Como Mayor Brian Wilton and possibly the two of them can visit the site.
Lake Como has been in the process of rolling out the revised traffic flow plan approved by its borough council on June 28. To take effect annually from May 15 to September 15, the plan is designed to reduce traffic congestion and increase safety primarily on the busiest streets during the summer — those that provide direct east-west access to Belmar’s beach. Each summer, these narrow two-way streets become packed with parked cars on both sides, causing gridlock and unsafe conditions when vehicles cannot pass easily in either direction.
Belmar Police Chief Andrew Huisman, who developed the new traffic pattern plan based on months of first-hand evaluation, said traffic is being closely monitored by the department for improved flow and speed. After the end of the summer, the new regulations will be examined by him and borough officials to evaluate their effectiveness before they take effect again on May 15, 2018.
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