By John Burton |
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – A plan to reconfigure traffic on a portion of the borough’s main thoroughfare in the commercial district to offer some relief from the increased traffic and the ever-worsening parking shortfall, has the mayor giving it some real thought.
At the May 10 Borough Council workshop meeting, local officials heard from Third Avenue resident Mark Fisher, who detailed a plan in a PowerPoint presentation to change a portion of First Avenue into a one-way street.
Complementing that proposal is another one, in which Fisher recommends that stretch of roadway, with the extra room allotted by one-way traffic, have 60-degree, angled-in parking.
“It’s an easy solution in my eyes,” Mayor Rhonda “Randi” Le Grice said last week, for a long-simmering problem that only appears to be getting worse. “It’s just a matter of changing the signs and stripes and measuring it out. That’s pretty simple.”
The proposal would have traffic travel in sort of a loop; on First Avenue one-way for the two-block distance from Mount Avenue to Bay Avenue, with traffic limited to moving east toward the borough municipal harbor, which is in proximity of the 2 Simon Lake Drive launching area for Seastreak commuter ferry service.
Cross streets would remain two-way; on Hennessy Boulevard, which is immediately north of First Avenue and runs parallel to First, traffic would be one-way traveling west, from Bay Avenue to Highland Avenue.
Hennessey, which currently allows parking on only one side of the street, would have angled parking on one side for that stretch of roadway, according to Fisher’s proposal, Le Grice said.
Fisher was not immediately available to discuss his plan this week, but Le Grice said reconfiguring the roadways and angling parking would result in an additional 88 spaces.
Fisher would also like to see calming speed humps across First Avenue, for greater control over speeding motorists in the commercial area, Le Grice said.
Le Grice said Fisher is not a traffic engineer and conducted this study out of civic responsibility. The mayor explained Fisher has been concerned about the parking over flow creeping into residential neighborhoods adjacent to the commercial district. Commuters shut out of Seastreak’s available parking and patrons of the local restaurants, theaters and other businesses have taken to using on-street spaces in front of people’s homes, according to the mayor.
At this point “It was just a discussion and presentation,” Le Grice stressed, without any formal study or analysis. Given First Avenue is a county road, she also noted, it would require approval from the county engineer and possibly Planning Board before the borough could undertake any change.
However, “This would alleviate some of the congestion,” and while not completely eliminating the parking shortfall, “It would go a long way,” to addressing it, Le Grice maintained.
Parking is increasingly becoming a commodity in the community as new businesses and other development projects – such as two new mixed-use residential and commercial projects currently under way – are attracted to the community, she noted.
Residents who live in the commercial district, within a short walking distance from the municipal parking area on Railroad Avenue, can purchase annual overnight parking permits for that lot for $35. But Le Grice said with the new developments going up that will soon strain the lot’s capacity.
For the long term, officials would be advised to think about a multilevel parking garage on the municipal-owned Railroad Avenue property, Le Grice said.
“It needs to be looked at, it really does,” she said.
But it wouldn’t be cheap if the borough considers this future alternative, with Le Grice estimating a garage would average about $15,000 per space to construct.
Le Grice is seeking input from the community, residents and businesses, as the borough council considers Fisher’s ideas.
Cindy Fligor is president of the borough’s Chamber of Commerce and owns and operates Salon at 68, a First Avenue hair salon, as well as being married to Borough Councilman Louis Fligor.
Businesses, she said, haven’t expressed their preference for this idea so far, but “it could help,” she suspected.
“It’s good parking’s a problem,” observed Frederick Rast. “It means we’re getting busier.”
Rast is the immediate past mayor and a commercial property owner, with holdings on First Avenue. He recalled previous discussions over the years about making First Avenue one-way, which the business community opposed at the time; the concern was it would reduce business visibility by motorists, Rast remembered. Rast also remembered decades ago when there was angled parking on a two-way First Avenue “and we had a lot of accidents.”
This plan now, “probably would be beneficial for the town,” Rast said. But he continues to support the idea of constructing a garage with a commercial component, built by a private developer, which he had proposed nearly two decades ago, while on the borough council and before his term as mayor. The mayor and council at the time didn’t move for ward with the idea.
This article was first published in the May 25-June 1, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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