Sea Isle

Cape May County engineer Dale Foster speaks at the meeting. Cape May County engineer Dale Foster and Urban Engineers, held a public information meeting Wednesday at the Sea Isle City public safety building about plans to elevate JFK Boulevard. 

Staff photo by Dale Gerhard

SEA ISLE CITY — JFK Boulevard, the entrance to the city, will undergo a $3.5 million reconstruction starting this fall to address flooding and help the resort make an even better first impression to visitors.

Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster outlined the county’s plans during a presentation Wednesday at the Public Safety Building.

The JFK Boulevard project, while unrelated, will coincide with Cape May County’s $9 million plan to rebuild the entire 2-mile-long causeway starting this fall. That four-year project calls for elevating Sea Isle Boulevard by 4.5 feet to ensure an evacuation route during coastal flooding. Both lanes of travel on the causeway will remain open to traffic during construction, Foster said.

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“We have to build half of the road at a time,” Foster said.

The elevated causeway will feature guardrails and a new bulkhead at the popular fishing area on the south side of the road.

The city spent most of last year making improvements on this corridor between Landis Avenue and historic Fish Alley with the new Excursion Park, Bracca Plaza and the Landis Avenue playground.

Cape May County will use federal funding this fall to rebuild four blocks of JFK Boulevard between the JFK Boulevard Veterans Bridge and Landis Avenue.

The improvements feature extra-wide sidewalks, some that are 26 feet wide, to provide a pedestrian plaza along JFK Boulevard so tourists and residents can stroll easily from the bay to Excursion Park.

“We’re creating a plaza area in front of Veterans Memorial. This will be a nice plaza area. That’s what I envision it will look like — a plaza,” city Engineer Andrew Previti said.

The new roads will have a practical benefit for Sea Isle residents in addressing flooding, said Adam Brown, an engineer with the Cherry Hill design firm Urban Engineers.

“We wanted to raise the profile of JFK Boulevard. The flooding won’t stop, but during evacuations it will allow for one lane of travel in each direction so you won’t be trapped. You can get in and out of Sea Isle City,” he said.

The $3.5 million federal project will begin in September with an estimated completion date of May 2013.

Administrator George Savastano said the project will complement other public improvements along this busy corridor.

Foster said the project has encountered some delays because of the added regulatory approvals required for the federal transportation funding.

Resident Jim Hemple said the public improvements have made a big difference on the island. He has attended some of the free concerts the city has sponsored at Excursion Park, he said. “It’s on the route I take when I go on my walk at night,” he said. “It looks nice. It’s a great improvement.”

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