Plans for a road that would connect the Atlantic City Expressway and Amelia Earhart Boulevard took a small but necessary step forward this month as the South Jersey Transportation Authority applied for a state permit for the work.
Congestion at the reconfigured Airport Circle in Egg Harbor Township won’t be eliminated until the connector is built. But despite the fact that the permitting process has begun, the project is still unfunded and years from completion, SJTA said.
“It’s better to have the permits in hand and be shovel ready for the time when funding is in place,” SJTA spokesman Kevin Rehmann said. “These things get going years in advance, but right now we have no funding.”
Earlier this month, SJTA applied to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission for a permit for the construction of the roadway. A public notice regarding the application was posted June 16, and the commission may take action 10 days after the notice is posted.
Members of the public could use that timeframe to comment of the project. Pinelands Commission Spokesman Paul Leakan did not return a call Wednesday asking if anyone from the public commented on the application.
The Airport Circle redesign was unveiled in November 2011 to sharp criticism from drivers about lengthy delays and confusing signage. Earlier this year the lights were re-timed and new signage was added to help motorists.
Atlantic County officials who facilitated the project said the changes were not meant to make traveling the circle faster — only to make it safer. Slight relief came in March when the South Jersey Economic Development District ended months of disagreement with the county by agreeing to open an access road between Amelia Earhart Boulevard and Delilah Road, but congestion still remains.
Construction could begin as early as next year if funding becomes available. The SJTA’s 10-year capital budget lists $50 million going toward the project in 2013, but that budget is used for planning purposes only and doesn’t commit funding sources to projects.
The project isn’t expected to be complete between 2015, and could take longer, SJTA officials have said.
The Press of Atlantic City has submitted an Open Public Records Act request to the Pinelands Commission for a copy of the authority’s application.
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