A section of the Garden State Parkway that becomes congested with summer tourist traffic heading to the Jersey Shore will undergo a $36.2 million widening to ease the bottlenecks.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the toll road’s operator, is adding a third lane in each direction between mileposts 48 in Port Republic and 42.3 in Galloway Township through Atlantic County. The project is the next phase of a multiyear, $900 million widening of the southern part of the parkway from Toms River, Ocean County, to Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County.

Parkway officials are promising smoother rides and fewer accidents in an area plagued with backups during the summer rush to the seashore communities in Atlantic and Cape May counties. In addition to adding a third lane, the project includes wider shoulders, the reconstruction of two bridges and new striping, lighting and signage.

“The extra lane in each direction will add capacity and reduce congestion. The full-width shoulders will make the roadway safer by providing a place to park disabled vehicles outside the travel lanes and offering emergency responders quicker access to accident scenes,” turnpike authority spokesman Tom Feeney said.

Construction is expected to begin in late August or early September and take about two years to complete, Feeney said. The turnpike authority awarded a $36.2 million construction contract Tuesday to South State Inc., a Bridgeton, Cumberland County, company. South State submitted the lowest bid among eight contractors seeking the work.

The stretch between Port Republic and Galloway Township will add to a 15-mile section of the parkway already widened between Toms River and Bass River Township, Burlington County.

“The benefits drivers are enjoying on that stretch of the parkway are the same ones they can expect to enjoy here once this contract is completed,” Feeney said, comparing the 15-mile section with the new work in Atlantic County.

During a public hearing on the project in December, the turnpike authority’s supervising engineer, John Withers, explained that the parkway has seen lengthy backups occurring in Atlantic County during the summer. Withers said the widening will ensure that those bottlenecks become “a thing of the past.”

Among the communities that have felt the impact of the parkway’s heavier traffic volume is Port Republic, a tiny town in the northeastern tip of Atlantic County. Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson, who supports the widening project as a way to improve traffic flow, said the southern sections of the parkway are now reminiscent of the congested North Jersey stretches.

“We saw North Jersey move to South Jersey,” Giberson said of the traffic growth in recent years. “But this project will boost the economy, because it will make it easier and safer for people to get to South Jersey.”

As a companion to the widening project, the parkway has begun building full exits at Interchanges 44 and 41 in Galloway Township at a total cost of $32.6 million.

Plans call for Interchange 41 to have a new southbound and northbound entrance at Jimmie Leeds Road, where motorists are currently able to access the parkway through a service plaza that is not officially marked as an exit. Parkway food contractor HMSHost Corp. will build a new $7 million service plaza related to Interchange 41’s reconstruction. The new service plaza is scheduled for completion in 2015.

In addition, a new $13.5 million State Police barracks is being built at Interchange 41. Completion of the barracks is set for later this year.

Interchange 44 at Pomona Road is being upgraded to a full exit with new traffic lights, exit ramps and bike lanes. The project is scheduled to be finished in 2015.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.