Faith McGinley has come to dread her ride to work at Motts Creek Inn in Galloway Township because the road she travels on is filled with potholes.
“That horrible, horrible road,” McGinley, 35, said of Motts Creek Road.
“One day, I hit a pothole and my car bottomed out, and it dented my oil pan and it started leaking,” said the Mullica Township single mother with three children. “My battery shifted, and then I noticed my car was shaking. I found a bubble on my front tire, and it turned out they all needed to be replaced. It was over $520 all in a week.”
A long and wet winter in 2010, followed by Tropical Storm Irene, a derecho and then Hurricane Sandy have ravaged the region’s roadways. And with nearly 370 miles of county roads, Atlantic County is responsible for fixing the buckled and pocked areas.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said his county is responsible for maintaining more miles of roadway than the Garden State Parkway, Atlantic City Expressway or New Jersey Turnpike. Atlantic County has 1,600 intersections and 175 bridges that crews are constantly repairing.
But the issue of repairing county roads is neither easy nor cheap.
Nearly $46.2 million has been spent in the last five years, according to the county’s five-year highway report. That large sum has resulted in just 28.4 miles of roads being repaved, less than 8 percent of the roads the county is responsible for.
Problem areas, including Delilah Road and Washington Avenue in Pleasantville, Mill and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township, and Duerer Street and Leipzig Avenue in Galloway, have all been addressed since 2010, Levinson said.
The county’s road repair schedules correspond directly with what has become its successful pothole hot line, Levinson said.
As reports come in, road crews are sent out to fix the road as quickly as possible.
“Hurricane Sandy created situations where a lot of bridges and roads had to be closed. Between Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy, a number of roads and bridges have been closed, have been replaced or are under design by county staff,” Levinson said.
The majority of funding comes from state and federal dollars, and the county also has funds to tap into, Levinson said.
“We are in a pretty good position here. Debt service is extremely low and we could borrow up to $1 billion, and we don’t. We have one of the lowest debt ratios in the state. We keep pretty steady,” he said.
As to McGinley’s complaint that Motts Creek Road is in need of work, Levinson agreed it is in terrible condition, although he said he believes it can be passed without problems if the speed limit is followed.
“You’re not going to damage your car if you’re not driving down it at 60 mph and going too fast for conditions,” Levinson said.
McGinley said she was driving slowly when her car was damaged.
Levinson said the road has not been worked on because the county also needs to repair a bulkhead at the end of the road, and that process is tied up in permitting issues with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
But because the road’s conditions have continued to worsen and the county has not yet received DEP approvals for the bulkhead replacement, Levinson said, repairs to the roadway will have to be done during the late spring.
“The road is in deplorable condition and we are going to go ahead and pave it, and we’ll have to do the bulkhead to address the road flooding later and hope that nothing happens to the road,” Levinson said.
The cost to pave the road will be about $500,000 and it will be widened to 11 feet on each side as part of the project, he said.
Meanwhile, Motts Creek Inn located at the eastern end of Motts Creek Road, continues to suffer. And with the summer season on the horizon, it’s going to be a bumpy road to get there — literally— said owner Gregg Parker.
Galloway Township Councilman Tony Coppola said the owners have done a great job refurbishing the building, which has an abundance of history, so he can understand their concerns about the condition of the road.
“They’ve invested a lot of money in the building and it was a challenging project. I’m sure they’d love to see that road improved. There’s been a lot of patchwork on the road. I’d love to see that road done, but I understand where the county is. This budget cycle has been difficult. It all comes down to county revenue,” Coppola said.
Parker said there were more potholes when he walked up the road after the storm and portions of the roadway that had been lifted up were floating.
This week, Parker said, he received a phone call from a biker who comes to the bar every summer with about 400 bikers, but he said this week that he and his group will not come if the road isn’t fixed.
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