Boulevard Crown Raising in Ship Bottom Slated to Begin This Month

Central Avenue Project Should Wrap Up by May 22
May 02, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The first step in mitigating flood waters in one of the oldest and most flood-prone areas of Ship Bottom is slated to begin within the next four weeks when the Ocean County Road Department raises a portion of the crown in the turn-lane of Long Beach Boulevard in the borough. The crown raising extends from 24th Street in Ship Bottom to 33rd Street in neighboring Long Beach Township.

“It should take approximately two weeks once they get started,” Ocean County Engineer John Ernst said last week, noting his department was finalizing a profile for the scope of the work to be performed by the road department to ensure the project addresses the issue at hand: providing one lane of water-free, or almost water-free, driving during a tidal or storm flood. In the area in question, the turn-lane is generally the last portion of the Boulevard that goes under during flood events. “It will be done before summer.”

He said depending on the area of the roadway, the crown will be raised between 6 to 8 inches. His department is surveying the area now to determine what area needs the crown raised to what height to help alleviate flooding, but not impact commercial or residential properties.

“We’re not changing the gutter lines,” Ernst said. “We’re not going to raise the crown so the water is dumped on private or commercial property.”

What that does, he said, is allow the water that collects to the east side of the Boulevard to continue to drain through that system. The water that collects to the west will remain doing so, he said. Eventually, a pump station could help relieve the west section of the Boulevard of water that lingers after a storm.

“It won’t be a bump and lift,” Ernst said of the change to the county roadway, which runs the length of the 18-mile Island. “It will be a smooth transition for motorists. We have to take into consideration the undercarriage of vehicles that are coming across the roadway (from side streets). We don’t want them to bottom out.”

Raising the crown of the roadway is the first step in addressing the overarching flood issue on the Boulevard in the area of West 28th Street, which impacts every motorist traveling south on the Island. In Long Beach Township and Beach Haven, motorists are often redirected to the higher elevated ocean roads when the Boulevard is impassable due to flood waters in those communities. A contiguous, alternate ocean road route doesn’t exist in Ship Bottom, Ernst said, acknowledging all the traffic converges at the worst area for flooding in the borough.

Although county and borough officials see this first step as win-win, residents in the flood-prone areas are more reluctant to claim victory. Ship Bottom resident Amy Stewart told the borough council at its monthly meeting April 24, she’s concerned raising the crown of the Boulevard before the installation of pumps is going to cause more problems than it will solve for her and her neighbors.

“We don’t want to have to wear hip boots to get into our garages,” the Ship Bottom Avenue resident said. Stewart is one of many residents to attend council meetings in the last year, asking for some sort of resolution to the flood-prone areas, especially since flooding can occur on sunny days.

The crown raising is just one of a trifecta of solutions being but into play by officials, and it must be addressed first, according to Ernst.

“Otherwise, the pump would consistently work,” he said, adding, “There would be no place for the pump to pump. We don’t want to recirculate the water.”

The flooding is caused by water that comes in more quickly than it recedes, whether it’s storm related or sunny-day flooding. Ship Bottom officials addressed the issue by installing tie valves, which allow the water to flow in only one direction. The valves are maintained annually and inspected every six months to ensure they work properly. Still, water can become trapped in the pipes for a period of time and then pushed out.

Ernst said the county will be looking at the tie valves as part of the project, which also includes seeking a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to replace the berm at the end of West 28th Street and Central Avenue, also a county road, with a bulkhead.

“Sea level is zero elevation,” he said, noting the area in question is only 0.5 to a little more than 1 foot in elevation. “That’s part of the issue.”

In addition to the county bulkhead project, the borough awarded a $96,000 contract April 11 to Wickberg Marine Contract of Belford to replace the bulkhead at the end of West 28th Street. Officials have said the replacement bulkhead, which will be nearly 2 feet higher than the current one, will help ease the rising bay waters. In fact, the borough council is expected to introduce an ordinance requiring all new or replaced bulkheads to be 5 feet in height. The current bulkhead elevation is less than 4 feet.

“You can still expect some flooding,” Ernst said, noting how close the roadway is to the bay in the flood-prone area. “This is a unique spot on the Island. I can say this is a test. It’s not going to solve everything.”

That’s something Mayor William Huelsenbeck has continuously tried to impress upon residents coming before the council.

“One thing isn’t going to work,” he said. “We’re blitzing it the best way we can. Unless the climate changes, we don’t know what’s going to happen (in the future).”

While residents are mostly appreciative of the effort to ease the flood issues, several are concerned the fill being stored at Central Avenue between 25th and 26th streets will exacerbate the issue in another troublesome spot. The fill is part of the water and sewer project being undertaken by the borough to replaced antiquated pipes. The current phase, which began in the fall, is expected to be completed before Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer season.

“It is worse than before. There is no way it’s going to be done before the end of May,” resident Richard Cummins told the borough council, asking what will happen to the materials currently being stored in front of the bayside gazebo. The fill has washed into storm drains, he said, making the already nearly filled-to-capacity storm drains overflow with silt.

Greg Walker, who also lives in the area, said the water is some of the dirtiest on the Island. He also questioned why the contractor hasn’t been told to move the fill.

“It’s not obtrusive to traffic or emergency vehicles. It’s one of the widest spots (in the borough),” Councilman Robert Butkus, chairman of the water and sewer committee, said. The work, being overseen by Owen, Little and Associates of Beachwood, borough engineers, is expected to wrap up by May 22 and will eventually include all of Central Avenue to 28th Street.

The borough water and sewer project is being conducted to upgrade systems that are aging out, according to the mayor. He said the pipes are at least five decades old, maybe older. There was a time, Huelsenbeck said, that a pipe broke during the height of summer. They are hoping to avoid a repetition with this project.

“There has been no discussion of raising the crown on Central Avenue,” Ernst said, noting the borough is in discussions with his department to determine the best course of action for resurfacing the roadway following the project’s completion. The county requires a minimum of 30 days before a final pave because it allows for settlement of the trenches. He said the development of sinkholes, like those in Florida, is unlikely. “It’s why we allow time for the road to settle, in case of a disturbance.”

Even so, Ernst said motorists should expect some unevenness on the roadway while it settles after the work has been done.

“We’re trying to minimize that,” he said. “Everyone wants to turn on their water and have water.”

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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