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Freeholder: Route 37, 166 Work Will be Sped Up; Economic Relief Sought for Businesses

Routes 37 and 166 in Toms River. (Credit: Google Maps)

Routes 37 and 166 in Toms River. (Credit: Google Maps)

Ocean County Freeholder Joseph Vicari told Shorebeat on Friday that after meeting Gov. Phil Murphy’s staff at a bill signing ceremony in Point Pleasant Beach, the administration pledged to help speed up construction at the Route 37-166 intersection, which has dragged on for months with traffic delays and lane closures.

After the event, Vicari led a member of Murphy’s staff to the site.

“We went personally to walk the site, and we went to a number of businesses and sat with some of the local people,” said Vicari.”He gave us his commitment that he was going to get personally involved.”

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The project is designed to ultimately improve traffic flow at the intersection, which located just east of a busy Garden State Parkway interchange. But since it began in 2016, there has been seemingly little progress despite constant lane closures and bottlenecks that have been a thorn in the side of adjacent businesses.

Vicari said he lobbied the governor’s staffer to consider allowing some type of relief – tax rebates or the establishment of a temporary Urban Enterprise Zone – for business owners whose establishments have been negatively affected by the project.

Vicari said since touring the site, the administration pledged to speed up work in order to complete major portions of the project before the busy summer season, though the entire project will likely not be complete until sometime next year.

The freeholder board had previously voiced concern over the speed of the project in the form of a resolution and a letter sent to the governor’s office.

“Enough is enough,” Vicari said in the recent letter to Murphy. “This project impedes the flow of traffic through one of the busiest areas of Toms River and we cannot wait until 2019 to see this work completed.”

Friday’s meeting, however, was friendly and productive, Vicari said.

“We want things done before 2019, and we’re going to examine the possibility of compensation to help the businesses,” he said. 

The $11,793,879 project is designed to improve traffic flow in the area from Highland Parkway, near the Office Lounge restaurant, to Old Freehold Road, just past the Shop-Rite shopping center. The project will create a full “Jersey barrier” along Route 166 north of Route 37 and a traffic light at Highland Parkway, south of the highway.

The full technical specifications of the project can be found online.

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