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Ocean City Tests Plan to Thwart 34th Street Shortcuts

Police seek feedback on temporary measures to reduce traffic in neighborhoods near 34th Street.

An experiment is underway on Simpson and Haven avenues near 34th Street to keep trucks and cars from using the neighborhood streets as a shortcut.

For vehicles backed up in traffic behind the light at 34th Street and West Avenue, the streets are easy temptations. But they are not designed for truck or high-speed traffic, and the issue has long been a source of complaints from residents.

"We were able to get some productive discussion started with residents on some of the concerns that they have regarding specific traffic safety issues in the areas of 29th to 34th Street between Haven and Simpson Avenue, including speeding, annoying truck traffic and pedestrian safety," Ocean City Police Sgt. Brian Hopely wrote in a letter to residents dated March 11.

Hopely, supervisor of the department's Traffic Safety Unit, had helped organize a March 6 neighborhood meeting at Holy Trinity Church. Despite a nor'easter bringing rain, wind and flooding to Ocean City that night, about 40 people met with Hopely and Ocean City Engineer Arthur Chew.

Out of the meeting came a plan to test temporary measures to limit through-traffic. The measures were implemented during the week of March 25 and will continue through May 3. They include:

  • A diverter at the intersection of 31st Street and Simpson Avenue that forces vehicles approaching from any direction to take a right turn
  • The closing of Simpson Avenue at 33rd Street to northbound traffic
  • New "no outlet" and "no left turn" signs

A plan to close Haven Avenue on the 3300 block to northbound traffic was reconsidered due, in part, to concerns about providing access to homes when other streets are flooded, Hopely said. See attached PDF for a map of the temporary measures.

"We ask that you stay open-minded during this 'trial/test period' and take note of the changes you observe while devices are in place," Hopely wrote. "Some of these measures will be affecting your own travel routines to and from your homes, so please be patient during this phase. Again, understand that these installed devices are temporary and once they are removed, feedback from you as the resident experiencing the plan will be crucial."

Hopely asks residents to wait until the conclusion of the test period to submit both positive and negative feedback in an email or letter:

  • Email: bhopely@ocnj.us
  • Mail: Brian Hopely, Ocean City Police Department, 835 Central Avenue, Ocean City, NJ 08226

"We're trying to be as open as possible," Fourth Ward City Councilman Pete Guinosso said. "If we're finding areas that are unworkable, we'll change."

Trucks traveling between downtown and 34th Street should use Bay Avenue or West Avenue, Hopely said.

Shawn April 04, 2013 at 02:01 PM
As a homeowner on Haven at 32nd, there are serious safety concerns during these times of high traffic when you consider that Haven is supposed to be the 15mph bike path in this area. Cars speed through our streets and alleys when traffic builds on West to get in/out of the island on Saturdays and holidays resulting in very dangerous conditions for child pedestrians and bikers. Close the streets down to homeowners only during these rare times and/or, really solve the problem by installing long and high speed bumps on Haven from 34th down to 18th. Unfortunately, like everything else n local gov't, it will take a tragic event to force them to act. This problem is not new. The 15mph zone on Haven is a joke. No enforcement allows it to be a virtual raceway every summer day.
WL April 04, 2013 at 03:06 PM
I live on Bay Avenue between 31st and 32nd st on the ocean side. The cones at 31st and Simpson that force you to turn right are forcing me to drive all over my neighborhood to get where I need to go. I cannot turn out of my alley and reach West Ave. without going three blocks out of my way in either direction. And when I return home from downtown, if I forget to turn on 28th St I need to go around in a circle on Simpson, Haven, and the numbered streets OR cross Bay Ave traffic twice to reach my house. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of lessening traffic in the neighborhood? In my opinion, it was enough putting in the 4 way stop signs on 31st St. They slowed everyone down. If those cones are made permanent they will merely result in more cars driving all over the neighborhood trying to figure out how to get where they intended to go. Like Eleanor said above, the point of a street is to drive on it.
Common Sense April 04, 2013 at 03:27 PM
I'm with Bob, get Cape May County to change the timing on the lights, especially in the off season.
Pat April 04, 2013 at 03:48 PM
The traffic light at 34th and West last forever....at night...sometimes it doesn't even change. that is why I detoru away from this intersection.
Pat April 04, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Bingo.
Pat April 04, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Yep....it makes no sense. sometimes....at night the light doesn't even change.
Bob April 04, 2013 at 03:54 PM
If they're going to have the lights be red for so long in the north/south direction, than make it so you make a right turn on red (west ave north to 34th west), at the very least in the offseason. I think the timing is a county issue. It's been a mess ever since they changed over to the new lights. Everyone sits at the intersection looking at each other while the lights remain green east/west with no traffic coming through.
Robb Wright April 04, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Not sure I understand the problem. But if Simpson and Haven residents want to alter the inbound traffic from 34th going north, then they should be prepared to sacrifice some of their own freedom as well. The first simple solution is to make Simpson and Haven one way streets southward only, maybe all the way back to 29th. The question may then be whether a traffic signal is needed at 29th and Bay to aid left turn traffic from Bay eastward. No longer living in OC, I do not remember if there is a traffic signal there already or not. But then it being a county road, it is then a county matter to resolve, yes? But I also think that adding all direction stop signs throughout that neighborhood should control speeds on their own, even if allowed to roll through them during the off season, and the residents in that area will just have to like it. Shorter traffic light cycling would help all to feel like they are still moving, AND it would cut down dramatically on the noise and air pollution allowed to gather from all vehicles.
John S. Holston Jr. April 04, 2013 at 04:51 PM
I appreciate that the 3300 block on Haven has been exempted from this redirection of traffic. As pointed out, when there is flooding at the intersections, vehicles need to be able to be moved to higher ground. Also, because it is a bicycle path, the speed of traffic is already at 15mph and there are stop signs nearly every block further slowing traffic on Haven. I point out additionally that hinderance of fire and other emergency vehicles (ambulances and police) by one way redirection of traffic could cause Homeowners Insurance rates to escalate besides hindering access of these vehicles when an emergency presents itself. As a result, lack of access could also effect the market value of the affected residences. Additionally, homeowners along the redirected streets will find it difficult for vehicles of repair services they have contracted with to access their residences to make needed repairs or upgrades to their propeties. I fail to see how this redirection will cause anything other then more traffic congestion. John S. Holston, Jr.
Bob April 04, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Major typo in my above post. It should say 'turn right on red from West Ave, SOUTH', not north.
Not what it use to be April 04, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Fix the light timing at 34th and west. its going to cause massive jams on staurdays at changeover and sunday afternoons when it rains and the beach empties. Especially from the south end,
Eric Sauder April 04, 2013 at 08:23 PM
Yeah I agree with the previous comments. I try to avoid the light at 34th Street and West because it takes SO LONG to change (turning onto 34 Street.) I can't tell you how many times I sat there (especially in the off season) with no traffic in sight waiting for that stupid light to change. You should at least be allowed to turn right on red in the offseason. I thought about bringing it up at a council meeting but who's listening? And in the summer only a few cars can make it off of West onto 34th Street before the light changes again, backing up traffic. But then we wouldn't want to make it any more difficult to drive into Ocean City and straight to the boardwalk, would we? If its a county issue get the county to fix it. Did you ever get the impression that apart from our 4th ward representative, no one in City government ever drives thru the south end of town? Yes the lights are timed to allow flow of traffic on the east west corridors, but good luck if you have to get across those streets.
Eric Sauder April 04, 2013 at 08:44 PM
In my opinion this is just another situation where action is taken without studying or understanding the problem.
Eric Sauder April 04, 2013 at 08:45 PM
And I wonder what is going to happen when all the east west streets are barricaded due to flooding.
Jean April 04, 2013 at 08:52 PM
As a very good friend said to me this winter: "i can celebrate another birthday sitting at 34th street waiting for that light". it is ridiculously long. but, in a hand out sent out by the mayor, one of the things the city takes credit for doing for the southend is "the new traffic lights at 34th street". wow, what a gift!
Bob April 04, 2013 at 09:13 PM
FYI, either people forget or just don't know, but the Roosevelt Blvd / 34th St. Corridor, from West Avenue to out of town is a county road. 34th and West to 55th and West is also a county road. Those signals are controlled by the county.
Bob April 04, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Also, if someone is going to lobby to the county to fix the light, tell them to get J.F. Kiely on the ball to fix that horrendous patch job on that trench they dug from 35th and West to 36th and West. You can get around it now, but once the 'right turn only' barricades are put up at 35th St, you're going to have to drive right through it. They're out there after every rain because it keeps breaking up and it's still full of craters. The county usually has made them dig up the whole thing and pave a new lane in the years since they repaved and raised West Avenue (yes, for those who don't know, West Avenue use to be lower in the south end until the late '90s when the county redid their whole stretch).
Joe Fontombon April 05, 2013 at 03:03 AM
Well said, Bob. Why on earth does the city allow every contractor to do such terrible patch jobs? Riding a bike in this town is dangerous enough without having to keep an eye out for all the crotch-jarring patches. Obviously, the mayor/council don't care. Doesn't seem to happen in other towns - why?
Bob April 05, 2013 at 12:21 PM
Joe, I think it does, ever drive through Sea Isle or any of the other shore towns that have had massive redevelopment? There are growing pains associated with the 'boom'. I think there is an ordinance that says they can't dig up a freshly paved street for 5-10 years, except for emergency repair. West Avenue from 34th St south use to be horrendous before the County dumped a ton of money fixing it up. That trench in the outside lane, starting at 35th St, is reminiscent of that. Hopefully they're waiting around for warmer weather to repave the lane - that's what they've done in the past. Additionally, I feel bad for any trucker that has to make a right turn onto 34th St. from West Ave. I remember thinking to myself when they were putting those bump out curbs in that they made a tight situation even tighter. The amount of tread marks over the sidewalk there says it all. As for biking in this town being dangerous - only if you make it so. I've spent some time living in Philly and commuted on a bicycle. Never really any issues there. One thing people have to keep in mind is that a bike lane is NOT a recreation path. People rollerblading, jogging, walking their dog, riding 3 wide in the bike lanes of West. Ave. in the south end is ridiculous. People seem to forget they're in a urban environment and not the suburban community where they come from where you can get away with that stuff.
Parker Miller April 05, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Why the city has never put a seasonal policeman in this area for traffic control during heavy traffic times is unbelieveable. The 34th St.-West Ave. is a riot in the summer during times when the heaviest traffic is leaving, or trying to leave, OC. Watch it on a Sunday in the late afternoon when all the day trippers are leaving the beaches from 20th to 56st Sts., and the weekenders are heading home. There are cars trying to enter and exit the Sunoco station, and 1000's trying to get from West onto 34th St. to get to the Parkway. Cars heading north on West pull into the intersection regardless of the yellow light and block all traffic even if cars are already stuck in the intersection with no space to move. No one can continue south on West or turn onto 34th. Those on 34th Street east of West are blocked and can not pull into the intersection so they gradually start to creep into the intersection that then blocks the traffic on West that wanted to continue heading north through the intersection to go to the Boardwalk. Then just as the traffic starts to clear because the light at Bay has changed, more cars run the 34th St. yellow light and block the intersection again. It's a hoot watching the tempers start to flare. I've wondered how an emergency vehicle would get through. I assume all of our seasonal police are on the Boardwalk keeping dogs off.
Jean April 05, 2013 at 04:15 PM
who needs seasonal policemen- we have 59 full time officers. i would imagine one of them could do this!
Bob April 05, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Doubt it. At times like Parker is describing, there is a shortage of full time officers on duty to handle the calls. If you knew any, you could ask them about it. All it takes is a few things going on at once (which it usually does in the summer, especially on the weekend) to tie up the entire full time force. It's too bad you can't tune in with a scanner anymore, if you could, and you turned it on, you'd be pretty amazed at everything going on... not everything makes the papers. Seasonal officers, while they do a great job, are no replacement for full time officers.
Eric Sauder April 05, 2013 at 06:41 PM
Another good point. I suggested patroling the intersection at a council meeting last summer.
NJ dreamin' April 05, 2013 at 07:17 PM
This topic has certainly generated a lot of discussion. I have a related comment that is sparked by the following two sentences in the original article: "An experiment is underway on Simpson and Haven avenues near 34th Street to keep trucks and cars from using the neighborhood streets as a shortcut. For vehicles backed up in traffic behind the light at 34th Street and West Avenue, the streets are easy temptations; but they are not designed for truck or high-speed traffic, and the issue has long been a source of complaints from residents." As a resident with a house on the 1600 block of Central Avenue, I have similar concerns about truck and high-speed traffic that regularly passes in front of our home, especially in the summer. Clearly, such traffic would better belong on West Avenue, but for some reason, Central seems the preferred route for all sorts of commercial vehicles, including semi's and large construction vehicles. Of greater concern is the speed with which they travel. I've often wondered why OC police don't do more to enforce the speed limit. Somers Point police have found a way to keep speeds down on Laurel Drive. Can't OC police do likewise throughout residential areas?
G.G. remlap April 08, 2013 at 04:59 AM
Wow, Ocean City sure does have it's opinions! At least the Cops are asking for feedback. Seems to me keeping trucks off these streets should be the first priority. So post the signs and write some tickets. As for the cars maybe No Left Turns after Bay ave. till West would help.( I am sure everyone will not agree )
Eric Sauder April 08, 2013 at 05:30 AM
Yep I pointed that out (the bump outs) at a council meeting. As you can see to no effect. I understand its a county road but its not like the City doesn't need to get involved with what the county does in its own domain.
Eric Sauder April 08, 2013 at 05:31 AM
Yes we do but I can't help but think the problem is with the intersection at West and 34th Street.
G.G. remlap April 10, 2013 at 04:32 AM
Theres a light there And West Ave is a Arterial street. I was only thinking of how to keep trucks and cars off of smaller residential streets. The real answer would be to widen streets and create turn lanes. But that is not feasable for Ocean City. Having Police man key Intersections and bottlenecks during the summer season would seem to be a great option. But this would take manpower away from there principal mission of writing endless tickets and accessing fines of every sort imaginable.
Jimmy Sweeney Sr. April 11, 2013 at 11:54 PM
59 police for 4 shifts, plus one shift off, equals 8 officers per shift if no one gets sick. Good luck.
Jimmy Sweeney Sr. April 11, 2013 at 11:55 PM
8 officers per shift!

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