BELMAR, NJ — In the latest fine-tuning of the borough’s one-way traffic control pattern, 19th Avenue will continue to run westbound and 20th Avenue eastbound on the beach side of town.
According to Mayor Matthew Doherty, the decision to maintain the status quo was based on feedback that he and Belmar Police Chief Andrew Huisman received from residents following the Belmar Council’s 4-1 vote on October 17 to keep the seasonal traffic plan in place year-round.
As a result, all even-numbered through streets will remain one-way eastbound to Ocean Avenue and all odd-numbered through streets will stay one-way westbound to Main Street.
While the approved plan sets one-way traffic southbound on Surf and Snyder Avenues and one-way traffic northbound on C Street for its entire length, the council left opened the possibility of making Snyder one way northbound and C Street two ways with parking on one side of the street.
The governing body’s action was prompted by a directive from Monmouth County to keep county-owned 16th Avenue one way or eliminate parking from one side of that street from Main Street to Ocean Avenue because it did not comply with current state-mandated road widths for traffic flow and parked vehicles. Because all streets in that area of the borough are too narrow based on these standards, the council decided to address the entire traffic pattern issue.
“The roadways are a hazard because of how narrow they are,” said Huisman before the public hearing on the ordinance and the council’s final vote. “This should have been done years ago.”
While several residents asked that the affected streets be made two ways with parking on one side during the winter months, Huisman said it would cause confusion in a town where parking is at a premium.
In addition, that option would require the installation of a large number of signs, eliminate parking in front of many homes and be difficult to enforce, he explained.
Councilman Thomas Brennan, who cast the only dissenting vote, also advocated for two-way traffic with one side of parking for this section of town during the offseason. He called the council’s action “not responsive government,” since residents were willing to give that alternative a try.
Acknowledging that the measure is “going to make a lot of people unhappy,” Mayor Matthew Doherty said that the borough had no other alternative but to implement the traffic pattern plan year-round, since the county deemed 16th Avenue too narrow based on legal standards for two-way traffic and without sacrificing on-street parking. “If there are hazardous conditions and you do nothing, then you’re liable,” he said. “It’s not a choice anymore.”
Voting in favor of the measure, Councilwoman Jennifer Nicolay said she based her decision on keeping the pattern consistent, ensuring traffic safety and maintaining sufficient year-round parking. “Wherever residents live, you get a different opinion,” she said.
Also supporting the ordinance were Council President Brian Magovern, who “deferred to the expertise of the police chief and borough attorney (Gregory Cannon),” and Councilman Mark Walsifer, who said he would like to see the borough consider bicycle lanes as another way to slow down traffic on the one-way through streets.
Based on feedback from residents, the borough council also agreed to look at other revisions to the ordinance, including placing stop signs on through streets at center intersections to slow down traffic.
Also, since 16th Avenue is a Monmouth County-designated coastal evacuation roadway that now goes eastbound, there will be discussions with county officials on making necessary changes to that route.
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