Everyone is looking for some kind of sign — especially Atlantic City tourists.
But a hodgepodge of confusing signs, quirky roads and oddly labeled exits have made it difficult for out-of-towners to figure out where they’re going.
That’s why the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is planning an overhaul of the city’s sign program, the details of which were unveiled Tuesday night during a public meeting at Dante Hall.
The “Atlantic City Wayfinding” program, developed by the CRDA and its project consultant, AECOM, is a second attempt to brand four “sectors” of the resort with symbols and colors — something it’s tried before.
The program would also “assist travelers with directions to major attractions such as casinos, as well as lesser known attractions visitors may not be aware of,” according to the CRDA.
Informational signs would also be placed in garages to encourage more foot traffic on and off the Boardwalk.
The four defined areas of the Tourism District, along with their colors and symbols, will be:
* The Marina District, blue, sailboat
* The Inlet District, pink, lighthouse
* The Midtown District, orange, silhouette of Boardwalk Hall
* The Chelsea District, formerly Downbeach, green, beach design
“It’s a lengthy process and complex situation,” Sam Donelson, vice president of AECOM, said during Tuesday’s meeting.
The cost estimate totals $1.8 million for the project and a yearly operation budget of $21,000.
An ordinance will incorporate the new sign system into the planning and zoning rules for the city as well as the CRDA’s zoning provisions, Donelson said. And signs would be replaced in seven-year cycles, with an estimated cost of about $112,000 per year.
At the meeting, resident John Exidalctilos asked whether the Ducktown area and information about its Italian history and roots would be a part of the wayfinding signs.
Michelle MacKinnon, an engineer at AECOM, said that while not a part of the major attractions, the neighborhoods will be identified and local stops and shops will be included in the pedestrian signs.
The city, the CRDA, the Atlantic City Alliance, the South Jersey Transportation Authority and others were all involved with the project. New signs are expected to go up starting in October.
Down at one of those locations where the CRDA hopes to improve foot traffic, Tanger Outlets The Walk, visitors had mixed reviews of signs in the city.
“It’s not bad, because you can actually see the casinos,” said Nick Grosso, of Connecticut. “But it would be nice if they had some signs that tell you where things are, definitely. If they had some signs with arrows that tell you what part of town it is, which casino is where, what’s ‘Uptown,’ what’s ‘Downtown,’ all that stuff? That would be nice.”
Grosso was talking about the existing color-coded system for differentiating neighborhoods, which the new CRDA plan will replace with new colors and symbols.
The current system is a bit confusing, with three of the four colors being some variation of the same shade — Uptown’s greenish-blue looks a lot like Downbeach’s light blue, for example — and the symbols seem mismatched, like how the symbol for Midtown is a lighthouse when the actual lighthouse in town, Absecon Lighthouse, is in Uptown.
Also, “Downbeach” refers to the Tropicana/Albany Avenue area of Atlantic City and not the neighboring towns of Ventnor, Margate and Longport, which collectively go by Downbeach.
In addition, only one sign, on the Atlantic City Expressway, clearly shows every sector and which casinos and attractions are where.
The “Marina” sector, meanwhile, refers to the cluster of casinos on the northern side of town — Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Harrah’s Resort and Golden Nugget Atlantic City. Gardner’s Basin, while across the harbor from Golden Nugget, is nowhere near there by car.
The sometimes confounding roads and signs on the way to the Marina District is part of what the CRDA hopes to streamline with its new program.
Right now, drivers can take the Brigantine Connector from the expressway, which has lettered exits but skips for some reason from Exit B to Exit E, or they can take Route 30 and navigate the various exits and roadway splits the connector takes — both to the left and the right — and hopefully take the correct exit to the correct casino before they end up in Brigantine.
Exiting the casinos is also tricky. A sign at the end of the road leading from Harrah’s tells drivers to make a right to get to Golden Nugget, which they can clearly see looming off to the left. Other turns at ill-defined signs take drivers onto service roads around Borgata.
Other signs guide people to “Renaissance Pointe,” a designation created by MGM when the company was interested in developing a casino there and which does not, in fact, exist.
Of course, there were similar plans in 2012 — with the CRDA approving a $300,000 fund reservation for the project — and talk of improving signs began in 2009 as a result of the $4 million Atlantic City Regional Transportation Master Plan completed that year.
Despite all that, Emily Perryreed, of West Virginia, said getting around wasn’t really that bad — though it could be better.
“Well, I’m new here, so I don’t really know where anything is,” she said. “I thought (the signage) was informative. ... We went straight to where we needed to go. I thought it was pretty clear. I do like to have things very well-marked whenever I go to other cities. It’s just easier to get around.”
Staff Writer Anjalee Khemlani contributed to this report.
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