By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City is backing Somers Point in efforts to keep Exit 30 – a gateway to both towns – open amid plans by the Garden State Parkway’s operating agency to close it and turn Exit 29 into a full interchange.
Ocean City Council passed a resolution at its Aug. 13 meeting in response to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s proposal. There has been no announcement about the construction schedule and the project is pending final approval by the authority.
The resolution states, “Requesting immediate action to amend the proposed 2020 capital improvement program of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to eliminate a full interchange at Exit 29 and to fund and construct the bridge interconnection of the Somers Point Bike Path and the Garden State Parkway Bridge.”
Elected officials who represent the neighboring shore communities said the authority’s plan could hurt businesses.
As motorists get off Exit 30, they enter Somers Point by way of Laurel Drive and MacArthur Boulevard. Local businesses line the route and officials said those store owners depend on the traffic. The exit also serves as a popular route to head directly into Ocean City over the Ninth Street bridge.
Ocean City Councilman Keith Hartzell said during the July 16 City Council meeting that eliminating Exit 30 would be bad for both towns.
“I don’t think it would be to anyone’s benefit to see Exit 30 disappear,” Hartzell maintained.
He worried that if Exit 30 closes, it could have an impact on Ocean City’s businesses as well as Somers Point because the exit serves as a feeder route from Somers Point into Ocean City.
During the summer, the height of the season, it is a bustling route for shore traffic to go to the bay of Somers Point for a vacation or head into Ocean City for the Boardwalk and beaches.
“I think it would be the wrong thing to do,” Hartzell said of plans to close Exit 30.
Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser agreed and went a step further to say that it will affect other communities as well.
He wants the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to hear what local officials have to say before solidifying any plans to eliminate the busy exit.
“I believe that before anything is done with any proposals or plans for the Exit 29/30 interchange, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the Department of Transportation should first meet with the city councils of Somers Point, Ocean City, Upper Township and Egg Harbor Township to at least hear what we have to say about all the problems associated with the current proposals,” Glasser emphasized.
He noted that it could seriously impact the economic climate of all those communities.
Glasser said he would like to be able to attend a meeting with state officials on the proposal.
“I would think that they should be having an open forum to invite all those affected and who live/work in this area to be able voice their opinion,” he said in an interview Saturday. “I personally believe that the current problems with Exit 30 will only be shifted and multiplied to the new interchange at 29 and will make it a problem for not only Somers Point but our surrounding communities.”