For all of its pot holes, uneven slabs of concrete and flood-prone dips in the landscape, Route 35 is special to Bruce Zabelski.
The Toms River resident has owned Z-Line Beachwear in the township's Ocean Beach section for the better part of 20 years, and knows that the overall look and feel of the area keep his customers coming back, year after year, as much as the sun and surf.
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"It's the only beach community in America like this," he told state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson on Wednesday. "There's no other that I can think of."
Simpson was in the township's Normandy Beach and Ocean Beach sections as part of his summer-long "listening tour" in preparation for the $265 million reconstruction project, which will ramp up in earnest on Route 35 after Labor Day.
Other business owners and residents reiterated Zabelski's concerns about maintaining the overall look of the area – including the open-style parking access for businesses from Route 35 itself, rather than curbing off the roadway and funneling cars through a small driveway opening.
Simpson, who immediately consulted with the project's engineers inside Zabelski's store, said access to businesses could be maintained through curb cuts that extend the length of businesses' lots.
Some Change Inevitable
When the roadway is reconstructed, gone will be its light-colored concrete surface in favor of 24 inch-thick asphalt, including stabilizing sub-base materials.
The highway will also include significant drainage improvements, said Simpson. The road will be contoured so water will drain into inlets on either side. An electrical pumping system will collect the rainwater, purify it by removing suspended solids, then pump it into Barnegat Bay.
Many residents have voiced concerns over the pumping stations, DOT officials said, though they will be strategically located in several locations, including Mantoloking, Ortley Beach and South Seaside Park.
The pumping stations will be located in areas near the bayfront that are already paved over, and will the topped with scenic gazebos and landscaping, said Tim Greeley, a DOT spokesman.
The pumping stations will only be active during rainstorms, and most of the noise and vibrations they generate will remain underground, an engineer on the project said.
Construction will begin shortly after Labor Day in most areas of the Bay Head to South Seaside Park stretch, officials have said. According to the current project schedule, mile markers 9 through 12.5 – approximately from Ortley Beach to South Seaside Park – will be completed by summer 2014, and the areas between mile markers 0 and 9 will be completed by summer 2015.