More than a decade ago, the state shut down and later demolished the Beesley’s Point Bridge used by vehicles and bicyclists to travel between Atlantic and Cape May counties. That wasn’t a big deal for drivers since they had the option of using the adjacent Garden State Parkway bridge. But it was the only inter-county route east of Mays Landing for cyclists trying to avoid chaotic and dangerous traffic on the barrier islands in summer.
In the spring the New Jersey Turnpike Authority finished the new parkway bridge over Great Egg Harbor Bay linking the counties. The southbound span includes a separate and protected recreational path for walking, running and bicycling. But after waiting several years for the path, those users will have to wait another two to five years, because state and local officials failed to plan for the connections they’ve known would be needed since at least 2012.
A similar path adjacent to the causeway between Somers Point and Ocean City is used constantly by people enjoying a spectacular view while getting fresh air and exercise. The Garden State Parkway bridge path is empty and wasted, a monument to the lack of regional transportation planning and coordination.
Officials in Upper Township have even pleaded with the turnpike authority to allow people on its side to at least walk on the bridge path and then return. They’ve already created the necessary connection to the path from adjacent roads and a guarded swimming beach on the bay. The turnpike authority has declined to answer publicly.
Somers Point and the state Department of Transportation, on the other hand, have together blocked use of the bridge path until they can greatly upgrade the connection between it and the path to Ocean City further east on the bay. That will include painting a bike lane on the shoulder of Route 9, installing sidewalks, and creating a pedestrian/cyclist overpass where the path will cross the exit from the parkway. These things are expected to take years to get done, during which the bridge recreational path will do no one any good.
For decades, bicyclists used the Beesley’s Point Bridge without any of these improvements, worthwhile though they may be.
Three years ago we urged state and local officials to work out this regional transportation plan and bring it to fruition in time for the opening of the parkway bridge and recreational path. They’ve made some progress, but they seem to be allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
If state and Somers Point officials can’t make their vision of a recreational path a reality by next spring, they should at least allow cyclists to use the path under the same conditions they were using the Beesley’s Point Bridge and quit making them ride through the heavy seasonal traffic in Ocean City.