SB Resident Urges Safety Over Increased Parking for Summer Visitors

Aug 02, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill The crosswalk at 16th St. and Central Ave. in Ship Bottom.

Joann Carroll is worried – for her family, neighbors and the summer visitors who flock to Long Beach Island’s gateway community in search of sun, sea, surf and parking. She lives on 16th Street in Ship Bottom, arguably one of the most congested roads in a borough that’s just 1 square mile, and regularly makes the trek across Central Avenue to Long Beach Boulevard on foot on her way to the beach.

“We walk in the middle of the street because there is no alternate side parking,” Carroll told the Ship Bottom Borough Council at its monthly meeting last week, adding crossing Central Avenue is a death trap with cars being allowed to park within 15 feet of stop signs (the borough approved the change from 25 feet to gain additional parking spaces several years ago). Even if the area is cleared of cars, walkers are still in the direct path of bicyclists. “It’s a big accident waiting to happen.”

By her own calculations, an estimated 600 to 700 additional people occupy that area of the borough on any given day, especially weekends, during the busy summer months. What exacerbates the situation more, she told the council, is that the area in question encompasses Bank of America, town hall and the police department.

In fact, her comments came after the council held a lengthy debate before settling the borough police department’s parking woes. Earlier this summer, police were shut out of the parking lot behind town hall after beachgoers nabbed their spots while officers were on the road. The municipal parking lot, where police and other borough employees park their vehicles, has always been open to the public for free parking, particularly during the summer.

“It was one of the best things we ever did,” Councilman Tom Tallon, who oversees the public safety committee, said about changing the parking distance from an intersection, and gaining 10 feet of additional space, at least one parking spot per street.

Tallon said he and Police Chief Paul Sharkey drove around the borough in a box truck to make sure those intersections were still accessible and safe with cars parked closer to the stop sign.

“There is just a lot of people,” he said, noting there is a traffic signal at 17th Street for pedestrians to safely cross. “I’d love to see a traffic signal at every intersection.”

One possible remedy could come from new construction, which requires sidewalks, according to Councilman Robert Butkus, who also serves on the borough land use board. “We have to provide parking for beachgoers,” he added.

Still, Carroll said visibility is the primary problem.

“You can paint crosswalks, but still we can’t see,” she said. “It’s highly dangerous. You should think more about safety than adding more parking.”

The borough plans to earmark parking spots for police and the department’s emergency vehicles in the municipal parking lot on Central Avenue between 16th and 17th streets. The spots will increase from 9 to 10 feet to accommodate the size of the doors of a police car, Councilman Joe Valyo said. The county is expected to stripe and stencil designated areas for police soon, he said.

At issue, though, is the borough’s attempt to save parking for summer visitors and beachgoers, who use the municipal parking lot, free, during their time in the borough. The council also agreed to change the wording of signs in the front of town hall from “one-hour parking” to “one-hour parking Monday through Friday” to accommodate more vehicles. Five spots near the front of the U.S. Post Office will be left alone for customers and box holders.

“It’s a hot spot,” Carroll reiterated before urging the council to consider implementing alternate street parking as neighboring Long Beach Township has. “The number one thing is the stop signs. Someone is going to …”

Fire Chief Doug White agreed with Carroll that alternate street parking would be a great addition but noted the fire company and emergency services personnel “are fully prepared to get (vehicles) in and out of small spaces,” and have pushed cars out of the way to get to a scene. He also noted the fire company has smaller vehicles to reach areas that are narrower, but the fire trucks are large.

“I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear,” Council President Edward English, who ran the meeting for Mayor William Huelsenbeck, told Carroll. “We’re trying to be user-friendly.”

At the suggestion of charging for parking, Tallon said, “because we charge for beach badges … it’s kind of like double dipping.”

Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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