Some business owners along the Route 35 corridor in Ocean County are worried that the state’s ongoing massive roadway reconstruction project that began in 2013 will continue through the upcoming summer.
The state Department of Transportation announced today the closure of one Route 35 northbound lane between Ortley Beach and Lavallette to accommodate construction activity.
The work, which includes the installation of two water main lines, drainage pipes, and the reconstruction of a portion of the road, is expected to continue through the spring.
“It is being done during the off-season to minimize disruption to businesses and residents as best as possible,” NJDOT Communication Director Steve Schapiro said in an email.
Two Lavallette business owners, still reeling from lackluster sales since Superstorm Sandy struck in late 2012, hope that like last summer, work along the vital barrier island route will cease during the busy season.
“To be clear we are not looking for them to stop the roadwork — that’s ridiculous,” said Tyler Mesanko, owner of Shaded Vision on Route 35 in Lavallette. “We are simply asking them to stick to their word and stick to their agreement and not work for the summer season that will affect so many so negatively. They’ve already taken advantage of us and started taking away our parking during a vital Christmas season.”
Schapiro, who acknowledges the construction’s impact on the area, said that no decisions on the summer work schedule have been made.
“The reconstruction of Route 35 is a massive project, and like any construction, it can be disruptive,” he said. “NJDOT is in constant communication with local and county officials, business owners, and residents to keep them informed about the project and to address any concerns.”
Mesanko and Kris Kopsaftis of NJ SURF SHOW in Lavallette are organizing local business owners in an effort to keep pressure on the NJDOT to finish the construction work in the borough’s commercial stretch by the summer.
The state is advancing the project on an “aggressive schedule,” according to Schapiro.
“We have worked in partnership with our contractors and the community to ease congestion and limit the impact to residents and businesses, while advancing the project on an aggressive schedule to restore the shore as quickly as possible, and we will continue to do so,” he said.
Kopsaftis fears that his business will suffer through another poor summer if the work is not completed by Memorial Day.
“That would mean a third summer of businesses being affected,” he said. “How are people supposed to survive for three to four years without a chance to make a living?”
“Bottom line we need a commitment from the DOT — just like this past summer — that no matter what happens once the summer hits — which is June, July, and August — they will stop all road construction on the main highway,” he said.
“We are talking about the four months we all make a living. We are not year round. We can’t make it up in the fall. It’s a make or break summer for a lot of businesses.”
The state began planning for the project about ten years ago in order to address pavement distress and corridor-wide flooding issues, but severe impacts inflicted by Superstorm Sandy shifted focus to an full roadway reconstruction, according to the NJDOT.
The reconstruction stretches along the corridor from Bay Head to South Seaside Park.