MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — A portion of Middle Township’s bike path will be closed this summer for a multimillion-dollar upgrade to the electrical grid.
“It’s a good news-bad news kind of thing. It will be good for our electrical grid but not good for people who want to ride the bike path this summer,” said Mayor Timothy Donohue at a recent meeting.
According to Frank Tedesco, a spokesman for Atlantic City Electric, the planned upgrades will affect more than 7,000 customers in Middle Township, North Wildwood and other areas, making the power grid more resilient and more resistant to storms.
The work in Middle Township is part of the $79 million PowerAhead Program aimed at modernizing the energy grid by addressing vulnerable areas that have experienced extended outages during severe storms. That includes upgrades to the connections between the barrier islands and mainland communities.
The work in and around Middle Township is expected to cost $4.5 million, according to Tedesco.
“To safely complete this reliability enhancement work, we are required to close a portion of the bike path in mid-June from Hand Avenue to Indian Trail Road in Middle Township,” Tedesco said. “This work is expected to be completed by early to mid-September. We are committed to minimizing the potential impacts of this work on the local community, and we will continue to meet with township officials to identify ways to minimize the impact of this work during the summer months.”
At a recent Township Committee meeting, Atlantic City Electric discussed the planned work during a workshop meeting. Three projects are planned, including the portion along the bike path.
Work on the upgrades has been underway along North Wildwood Boulevard, Donohue said, but that work is required to stop in late April or early May to avoid disturbing osprey returning to the area to nest. Similarly, he said, the bike path work is also limited because of the potential effects on the eastern tiger salamander, classified as endangered in New Jersey.
“The bitter pill to swallow is that most of that portion of the bike path will be closed during most of the summer,” said Donohue. “We are guests on their right-or-way. Our entire bike path is. That’s part of the deal.”
He said no one is happy about it, but the township wants residents to be informed.
The township has worked on its bike path in phases over many years. A continuous route now connects to the Lower Township path that leads from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal up to the Cape May County Park and Zoo in the north end of Middle Township.
Long-term plans call for the continuation of the route north of the park, with hopes of eventually tying in to other routes to create a network of bike trails leading throughout Cape May County and beyond.
But the next step has proven to be a challenge. Donohue has reported at public meetings that there have been issues in finding an acceptable route to continue the bike path north of the zoo. The latest proposal would reroute part of the route to avoid some areas where there have been issues securing a right-of-way for the bike path.