As Toms River looks to redevelop its downtown area with mixed-use properties that officials say will attract millennial residents with nearby nightlife and restaurants, the project got a significant push this week by the federal government, which committed $5.6 million to road realignment.
The United States Department of Transportation announced the award of the $5,660,000 grant to help fund the Herflicker Boulevard Loop in Downtown Toms River. The project will create a loop between the Garden State Parkway and waterfront business district by elevating and reconstructing Herflicker Boulevard as a one-way complete street, converting Water Street to a one-way complete street, and making roadway improvements and upgrades on connecting roadways.
“This project has been a priority for the township for year, now we have full funding to complete these needed improvements,” said Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher. “Toms River was the only community in New Jersey to receive a BUILD grant”.
BUILD refers to the “Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development” transportation grants program that supports road, rail, transit, and port infrastructure projects across the country.
By improving traffic circulation, reducing the number of turning movements at intersections, and adding pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, the project will improve traffic movement and reduce the number of accidents, officials say. The project upgrades the roadway and elevates Herflicker Boulevard to limit flooding – and so it can be used as an evacuation route during flood events. The project also improves multi-modal connectivity to the Toms River waterfront district, which is planned for redevelopment, and increases transportation choice.
“Hopefully that’s another step toward redoing downtown Toms River,” said Council President Brian Kubiel.
Councilman George Wittmann said the loop will also open up new opportunities for bicyclists in town.
“It’s going to dovetail in with the bike path grant we got for $1 million,” he said, referring to a plan that would extend the bike path along the river to the point where it connects to Ocean County College. “Between that grant and this grant, it’s really moving things forward.”
The BUILD grant is difficult to obtain. In all, the USDOT considered 851 eligible applications from all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, nearly double the applications received in 2017. Rutala Associates, a Linwood, Atlantic County, planning firm was retained by the township earlier this year to purse funding for this and other major projects.