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State Unsure of Route 35 Completion Date As Summer ’15 Work Plans Discussed

A single, narrow lane on Route 35 south, just north of Used to Be's bar. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

A single, narrow lane on Route 35 south, just north of Used to Be’s bar. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

A harsh winter in 2014 created setbacks for the reconstruction of Route 35 along Ocean County’s northern barrier island, but even with crews steadily making up time with this winter’s more cooperative weather, the final completion date of the project is uncertain, a state official told the Ocean County freeholders this week.

“Last winter put us back a little bit,” said Scott Stephens, Director of Community Relations for the New Jersey Department of Transportation. “We’re still working as diligently as possible to make up as much ground as we can. This winter has been good so far, a lot of extra work has been completed.”

While officials with NJDOT say the timeline for completing the project hasn’t changed, local residents and business owners have repeatedly said they were initially told the highway reconstruction – which stretches from Bay Head to the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley Township – would be done by the summer of 2015. Now, NJDOT says plans are being developed as to how construction during the summer season should be handled.

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“If we find ourselves extending into the summer, we’re looking at two lanes in both directions, no question,” said Stephens.

Also, Stephens said, no construction would be done in the busy Lavallette business district during the summer season due to an agreement forged with the state’s contractor on the project.

“It is contractually obligated and that’s not going to change,” Stephens said.

The project, now estimated to cost about $300 million, includes not just paving, but completely rebuilding the highway along the barrier island. It also includes a number of improvements to sidewalks, a bike lane, drainage and stormwater management improvements to eliminate flooding that had plagued the roadway for years.

The freeholders praised the state agency for its ongoing cooperation and continued contact with regard to the schedule.

“We’re happy that you have been so outgoing, taken our concerns and have been so accessible,” said Freeholder Director John P. Bartlett.

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