By Maddy Vitale
Somers Point is already a haven for good restaurants, shopping and healthcare, with improvements for the bike path underway, they hope it will soon become the hub for cycling.
“We are really concentrating on being a biking hub, recognizing that geographically and culturally, it is who we are,” said Greg Sykora, chairman of the city’s economic development committee. “When people think about biking they should think about Somers Point.”
The Somers Point bike path runs from the Linwood border at Ocean Heights Avenue all the way south to West Jersey Avenue.
Two projects are happening simultaneously involving the bike path, officials explained. An extension of the bike path is currently being completed to link the area behind Somers Mansion with the rest of the bike path.
Engineer work and permitting are also underway to install energy efficient LED lighting throughout the existing bike path, which will also be widened from 10 to 14 feet. Bicycle racks and other amenities may also be included in the project, explained Jim Rutala, Somers Point’s city planner.
“The exciting thing about Somers Point is it really turned out to be the hub of biking for South Jersey, because from Somers Point you could take the bike path all the way to Pleasantville or all the way to Ocean City,” Rutala noted.
The city was awarded $175,000 to extend the path behind the mansion.
“The bike path runs from Pleasantville to Somers Point and connects to the Route 52 Causeway to Ocean City,” he said. “The one piece that was missing was behind the mansion,” he said.
Workers were installing the path Thursday afternoon. Officials hope to have it completed soon.
The second, and larger project to enhance the existing bike path, is encompassed in a $755,000 grant. Work is expected to begin on the upgrades in the fall, Rutala said.
City officials and members of the economic development committee worked together to do these projects.
Mayor Jack Glasser said the enhanced bike path will be wonderful for the city’s residents and for visitors.
“I am looking forward to this project being completed, as it will be a great improvement to a bike path that has been enjoyed by so many for a long time,” Glasser said. “This bike path was one of the best ideas of all time for our three communities. Now we will be tied in with the Route 52 pedestrian bike path and Ocean City.”
Sykora said he is pleased that the projects are going forward, and he is looking forward to some key improvements being completed.
“We have dark spots and light spots. Some people don’t feel safe,” he said. “Soon the whole bike path will be lit and safer to utilize after dark.”
In addition to the city securing grants for these projects, Sykora said the economic development committee is working to make Somers Point a “Bike Friendly” designation through the state. The designation would allow for the city to receive monies to purchase bicycle racks, benches and other items they might need for the bike path.
“We have a committee working on it right now and we are filling out lots and lots of paperwork to get the designation through the state,” Sykora said. “That is just something we have to do.”
Rutala said in a year or so, bicyclists will be able to take the bike path all the way through Upper Township to a bike path that will be installed on the new Garden State Parkway bridge over the Great Egg Harbor River.
Somers Point has a grant before the state, to extend the bike path on Somers Point Mays Landing Road from Macarthur Boulevard to Route 9. And the state is building a connection from Somers Point Mays Landing Road to the new bridge.
“It will be the first (Garden State) Parkway bridge with one,” Rutala said of a bike path. “Some people may wonder if people will use it to bike. All they have to do is look at the Route 52 bridge. It is a good example to show people want these facilities and they will use them.”