Plans to build a pedestrian bridge for students to cross the Atlantic City Expressway safely is part of a $3.5 million state-funded project to improve sidewalks, crosswalks and the bike path in Pleasantville.

The bridge was first introduced after a feasibility study in 1997 when the ramps were planned, said Jim Rutala, who serves as the city’s planning consultant. At that time, the high school had been moved to its new location and the bridge was discussed as a safe crosswalk for students.

“(Superintendent) Garnell Bailey and I have discussed this quite a bit, and were concerned for the students’ safety,” said Doris Graves, Pleasantville School Board president. “The high school and middle school are in the heart of where most kids travel.”

Graves said she recalls hearing about plans for the bridge years ago but it “faded away,” and she hopes it will become a reality now.

Plans indicate a direct path using Mill Road, including an overpass on the expressway, to join at the intersection of West Adams Avenue. This route was chosen to keep students safely away from the off-ramps of the expressway on Route 9, where they currently cross over, said Stephen Chiaramonte, lead transportation planner at Parsons Brinckerhoff, the traffic engineering firm hired by NJDOT.

The total cost of the bridge is estimated between $2 million and $3 million, and the city applied for a $1.4 million grant in July, according to Rutala.

The remainder is expected to come from revenue from advertising on the bridge, Rutala said. It will be used as advertising space similar to other overpasses in the county.

In addition, sidewalk improvements, crosswalks and pedestrian signals are planned for Delilah Road, Mill Road and Reading Road, with funding from the DOT Safe Routes to School grant.

Rutala said the grant request for $262,000 was submitted in December 2011, but no response has been received yet.

The bike path is another major focus of the improvements, which will attract more people to the city’s marina district, said police Sgt. Herbert Simons.

The plans will combine nicely with the City Center project, which aims to improve the downtown district, Simons said.

“The goal is to try to revamp and revitalize Pleasantville,” he said.

The bike path starts in Pleasantville and continues south to Somers Point and into Ocean City via the Route 52 Causeway. Each municipality maintains the portion of the path within its boundaries.

“The bike path gets you across the Black Horse Pike, which is the next major barrier, and you have a nice north-south corridor that links to the rest” of the region, Chiaramonte said.

The portion in Pleasantville is the only part that is unlit, and most of the rest of the path has been lit through grants, Rutala said.

Adding lights is part of the improvement plan which police Chief Jose Ruiz said will make the area safer. In the past, there have been purse snatchings along the path after dark, he said.

The plans were drawn from several months of surveying the area, Chiaramonte said. Studies were done at major crash sites, based on information provided by the Pleasantville Police Department.

Improvements to existing sidewalks include “signing, stripings, stuff that is low-cost but effective,” Chiaramonte said. “A lot of the improvements are along state roads and county roads” which means those entities would need to be involved in the funding and implementation process.

“The key thing we heard was the disconnect between the high school and middle school and downtown Pleasantville and the southern portion of Pleasantville,” Chiaramonte said.

With the planned improvements “you essentially open up the high school and middle school to the rest of the city.”

These planned improvements will “reduce pedestrian traffic and vehicular interaction” as well as create a safer environment for students and other pedestrians in the community, Simons said.

“The goal really is to get accessibility and circulation,” Chiaramonte said. “And the hope is, the more people that use things, the more secure it becomes because more people are there.”

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