Two River Mayors Invite County and State To Discuss Bike Paths

June 19, 2015
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SHREWSBURY – Members of the Two River Council of Mayors continue to hope to sway the county’s seemingly tepid position on establishing designated bike lanes in the Two River area.

The mayors who have reiterated their support for the proposal to have bike lanes on county roads, decided to extend an invitation for their planned July 16 meeting to Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone and other members of the county Board of Chosen Freeholders, hoping to elicit some more support from the board. County officials have expressed reservations for the county’s participation in establishing formal lanes in the area.

The mayors’ group plans to also invite state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) to the July meeting, hoping he may be able to facilitate a meeting of the minds between local and county government, it was decided at the June 11 meeting. O’Scanlon and state Senator Joseph Kyrillos (also R-13) “both have been a huge help,” and have supported in theory the proposal, said Fair Haven Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli, who has been spearheading this initiative for approximately the last year.

Several calls to Freeholder Arnone were not returned. Laura Kirkpatrick, Monmouth County spokeswoman, declined to respond given she has not yet heard directly from the mayors and did not attend the meeting.

As an olive branch offering, Lucarelli also suggested each town consider paying a portion of the project, offsetting what would be the county’s cost if the project moves forward.

The mayors who have reiterated their support for the proposal to have bike lanes on county roads, decided to extend an invitation for their planned July 16 meeting to Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone and other members of the county Board of Chosen Freeholders, hoping to elicit some more support from the board. County officials have expressed reservations for the county’s participation in establishing formal lanes in the area.

The mayors’ group plans to also invite state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) to the July meeting, hoping he may be able to facilitate a meeting of the minds between local and county government, it was decided at the June 11 meeting. O’Scanlon and state Senator Joseph Kyrillos (also R-13) “both have been a huge help,” and have supported in theory the proposal, said Fair Haven Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli, who has been spearheading this initiative for approximately the last year.

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Several calls to Freeholder Arnone were not returned. Laura Kirkpatrick, Monmouth County spokeswoman, declined to respond given she has not yet heard directly from the mayors and did not attend the meeting.

As an olive branch offering, Lucarelli also suggested each town consider paying a portion of the project, offsetting what would be the county’s cost if the project moves forward.

A number of the mayors expressed criticism of the freeholders’ April decision to place the heavy lifting and responsibility on local government to establish these routes, alleging it was an attempt on county government to kill off the proposal.

“That’s what they’re hoping,” said West Long Branch Mayor Janet Tucci.

“It’s just an outrage, it really is,” added Monmouth Beach Mayor Susan Howard.

The freeholders, after a review by county engineer Joseph Ettore, voted in April to establish guidelines for such interconnecting bike lanes on county roads. If municipalities want to do it, each town would have to have its own engineer conduct the study, and pay for that, and the towns would have to be willing to pay for the striping and stenciling the roadways and putting up necessary signs. The towns’ plans would have to be submitted to the county for its approval, first, to ensure it meets state transportation requirements, along with other criteria.

County officials have said, while it maybe a worthwhile project, they simply can’t afford to do it and there are issues of liability that have to be addressed.

Ettore had told county officials it would cost approximately $15,000 per mile to under take the project. Lucarelli and Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl have disputed that price tag.

Having each town responsible could jeopardize the continuity of the project, if all towns fail to participate, and would greatly increase the cost of the project, Lucarelli said, stressing this should be a county project.

“The county really has to drive the bus,” on this, he said to the mayors.

Ekdahl estimated it would cost about $25,000 per town to undertake the engineering study.

If the county
the project and “if you do it right, it’ll be a nominal cost,” Lucarelli said.

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Lucarelli’s plan is to have designated bike lanes – about four-foot wide – along county roadways from Red Bank, east through the Fair Haven-Rumson peninsula. The lanes would continue through Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach, to Oceanport and loop back toward Red Bank. Lucarelli said this would create a safer and more welcoming environment for those who already cycle on the roadways for recreation and transportation encourage others to do it.

His idea would be to stripe the roadways when the county undertakes repaving projects.

This is the new paradigm across the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, working to get people out of their cars and on bikes or walking for health and environmental reasons, in the past said Lucarelli, who is a cycling enthusiast.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has plans to repave state Highway 35 from Asbury Avenue, Ocean Township, to the Middletown border at the Coopers Bridge, with state transportation officials considering adding bike lanes, according to Lucarelli.

Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long told the mayors’ group the DOT plans on adding bike lanes in Sea Bright along Ocean Avenue/Highway 36, from Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook to the Monmouth Beach border, when the road is repaved, following water main replacement work in the fall.

According to the DOT, as part of a Route 36 resurfacing project, bike lanes will be installed in the Sea Bright area. The project is expected to begin next spring. It was originally planned for a spring 2015 start but a water main project in the area required NJDOT to wait until the ground settles.

Lucarelli remains confident an accommodation can be reached between county and local officials.

“We’ll work it out,” he said. He also encouraged the mayors to contact freeholders to voice support for the bike routes.

The Two River Council of Mayors, an informal group of 13 area communities, has unanimously endorsed the bike lanes plan, said Shrewsbury Mayor Donald Burden, the current council chairman.

John Burton can be reached at jburton@tworivertimes.com.

 

 

 

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