Freeholder: Construction On 9 And 37 Taking Too Long

Construction continues at the intersection of routes 37 and 166. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

OCEAN COUNTY – Enough is enough.

“The worst traffic problem we have right now in Ocean County is routes 37 and 166,” Freeholder Joseph Vicari said. The Route 166 project began back in 2016. The $11.8 million project includes the jug handle, utilities, road-widening and repair work on the state roads, around Garden State Parkway Exit 82 and Old Freehold Road. Delays have pushed the work’s likely completion to 2019.

“The business people are complaining. It’s a major problem. Developers don’t want to come in to do any business there. It’s bad for tourism,” Vicari said, listing the problems with the lengthy construction.

A March 16 letter sent to Gov. Phil Murphy asks that the work be expedited. The work was to be completed by this November, well beyond this year’s busy summer season, but the contractor has asked for additional time to complete the project.

Photo by Chris Lundy

“The project, which is taking far too long to complete, doesn’t bring greater capacity to an area that desperately needs it. Rather, the work has just created havoc as frustrated motorists attempt to use parking lots as bypasses, creating public safety nightmares,” the letter stated.

Vicari wants the state to “provide some visible relief for motorists and businesses” by Memorial Day weekend, May 26.

“We have been very patient as this work moves along at a snail’s pace. It is time to get this job done or provide us with a reasonable alternative for the summer months and until it reaches completion,” the letter concluded.

Vicari wants signs posted along the roads, telling motorists that they are state, not county, roads, and provide them with phone numbers to the governor’s and Department of Transportation’s offices. The county would need a permit for such signs, and given the topic would likely not be given that permit by the state. The solution would be to place those signs near Route 166 on county roads or on private property along Route 37 with the owners’ permission.

Photo by Chris Lundy

DOT spokesman Steve Schapiro told Jersey Shore Online, the website version of the Toms River Times, that utility relocation is almost complete. The southbound side of Rt. 166 is being widened, which should be completed by late spring. Once that’s done, traffic will be shifted again so the northbound lane can be widened. After that, the center median will be constructed. A half-mile portion of Route 37 East, between Main Street/Rt. 166 to King Street, will be resurfaced.

“The project is expected to be completed at the end of this year, approximately six months later than originally expected,” Schapiro said. “While most road or bridge construction projects have some effect on motorists, NJDOT designs projects in a manner to minimize any inconvenience. This project was designed in stages so the normal compliment of travel lanes—one lane in each direction—is maintained throughout construction.”