Park and Ride Commuter Lot Coming to Little Egg Harbor

Ocean County Partners With NJ Turnpike Authority
Jan 31, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson SOCIAL CONCERN: Little Egg Harbor officials promote Human Trafficking Awareness Month on Jan. 25. (From left) Debbie Casale from ZONTA, Deputy Mayor Barbara Jo Crea, Committeeman David Schlick, Mayor Ray Gormley and Leon Ellis from HEAAT.

The long-awaited park and ride planned near Garden State Parkway Interchange 58 in Little Egg Harbor Township has finally received the go-ahead from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, according to Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly. Kelly made a press announcement on Monday.

He said construction of the commuter lot with 49 parking spaces would start in the late spring or early summer.

“This new facility will provide a designated paved and illuminated parking area which will bring major improvements for safety and convenience for commuters in the southern area of the county, especially Little Egg Harbor Township and around the Route 539 corridor,” said Kelly, director of law and public safety.

Kelly, who serves as liaison to the county’s engineering department, noted the need for such a facility at this location is easily apparent.

“Commuters currently park on any available cleared roadside area near the interchange,” he said. “In the absence of any other alternative, commuters, in some instances, have over the years been forced to leave their vehicles in a poorly lit dirt lot with potholes located off Route 539. We will now provide them with a new Park-N-Ride facility.”

Along with 49 paved parking stalls, the design includes an internal bus loading and unloading area in anticipation of future bus service to this location. Ocean County appropriated $400,000 for the facility and expects to be reimbursed for the design costs, securing all the permits and ultimately constructing it under a proposal with the turnpike authority.

“I have been working with state Sen. Chris Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, Little Egg Harbor Township officials and the turnpike authority in order to create a park and ride facility at Interchange 58 in Little Egg Harbor Township,” Kelly said. “In addition to enhancing safety in the area, I expect this will promote carpooling.”

The new facility will include stormwater upgrades and a lighting system that will be substantially maintenance free.

During the Jan. 25 Little Egg Harbor municipal meeting, Township Engineer Jason Worth said the county had all the permits for the project but was waiting for the turnpike authority to sign off on some of the funding.

On Tuesday, Mayor Ray Gormley said the freeholders had not contacted the township with the latest news, but he was pleased with the turnpike permit. “We knew they had all the permits but were waiting on the turnpike,” he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “This is fantastic news. It will really clean up that corner of the Parkway and Route 539, and make it nice and convenient for the residents of Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton.

“The most important thing is that residents take advantage of the park and ride and use it. A lot of time and effort has gone into that.”

The township first came up with the commuter parking lot idea when a resident, former bus driver Craig Versheck, suggested it in 2009. The turnpike authority, which administers the Garden State Parkway, was in the planning stages for widening the Parkway from two to three lanes between Toms River and Somers Point. At that time, the TPA said there was no money for a lot in Little Egg Harbor.

But enthusiasm for the commuter lot continued to build, and the 9th District Legislative Office of Connors, Rumpf and Gove also lobbied for the project.

Whether or not a bus lane will be included is still up in the air, according to Gormley.

“There’s been no commitment for a bus (lane), that I’m aware of,” he said. “It would have to be demonstrated that there is a need for a bus.”

On another topic during the Jan. 25 municipal meeting, Worth said the Little Egg Harbor Municipal Utilities Authority has finished installing water and sewer lines in Twin Lakes Boulevard. The township is ready to go to bid for a company to start reconstruction of the drainage inlets, followed by repaving.

Deputy Mayor Barbara Jo Crea read a proclamation naming January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Leon Ellis from Helping to Educate and Advocate Against Trafficking said the nonprofit, based in Atlantic City, has 32 education and prevention projects, including paying to have brands removed from victims who were lured into the sex trade, and paying for victims to travel back to their families. Other people have been forced into modern-day slavery, working without pay.

Crea also read a proclamation for Wear Red Day on Feb. 2, to raise awareness that women need to take care of their heart health. On Feb. 28, Meridian Health Advisors will give a talk, share education materials and conduct blood pressure screenings from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Little Egg Harbor Community Center on West Calabreeze Drive.

— Pat Johnson

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