ATLANTIC CITY — Four-lane Atlantic Avenue is about to get slimmer and, the city hopes, safer.
The city has the funding and is finalizing plans to put the avenue on a “road diet” from Albany Avenue at Stockton University to its end in the inlet at Maine Avenue, officials say.
That means cutting it down to two motor vehicle travel lanes with a center median. The two outside travel lanes would become protected bike lanes, and parking would remain parallel at the curb, city Engineer Uzo Ahiarakwe said.
Ahiarakwe said the cost will be $8 million to $10 million, paid for with about 90% federal funds and 10% city funds.
“It’s safer because now you have an organized traffic flow,” Ahiarakwe said. “Right now as it is, you have folks who stop in one lane.”
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Cars also routinely move between lanes in an unsafe manner, and it’s difficult to see pedestrians waiting to cross. The new plan will put “bump-outs” at intersections, Ahiarakwe said.
“The sidewalk will protrude towards the street (at intersections),” he said, “so you can see someone who wants to cross. ... That makes it better, particularly at night.”
The traffic lights would also be synchronized he said, for better flow, and street lighting improved. Upgraded handicapped ramps will be built, and higher visibility striping painted on the road.
“It’s a full package,” Ahiarakwe said. “We’re looking to bid the project in October 2021.”
Business owners seemed open to the idea Wednesday, with a suggestion or two.
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“The bike lane should be next to the curb, like in New York City,” said Abdullah Anderson of Omar and Abdullah’s Hair Bazaar on Atlantic Avenue, right in the middle of the city.
The parking lane then would separate bikers and traffic, and bikers could stop easily to go into a business.
That way cars wouldn’t have to cross the bike lane to get to the parking lane, he said.
“If they do it that way, I’d agree,” Anderson said. “The other way, I don’t like that.”
Down in the Inlet, Noel Feliciano, owner of One Stop Bait & Tackle, said there is much less traffic so the impact won’t be as great.
“As long as there is parking ... it’s for the better,” Feliciano said, adding he hopes drivers will be more likely to make it to the Inlet area. “This neck of the woods is the gem of Atlantic City.”
Safety had to be improved on the avenue for the city to get federal funding for road rehabilitation, Ahiarakwe said.
“The feds basically said, ‘We’d like to give you the money, but Atlantic Avenue is one of the most dangerous in South Jersey,’” Ahiarakwe said. “We hired a firm to do a study, and between 2013 and 2017, there were 829 total crashes documented on the Atlantic Avenue corridor.”
Most recently, on the afternoon of Jan. 13, a local woman was killed when she was hit by a car while crossing Atlantic Avenue at Tennessee Avenue.
Police said Jill Collette, 66, was hit in the crosswalk by a turning car, when the signal for the opposite flow of traffic turned green.
The hope is that the new design and lighting will prevent that kind of accident in the future.
Construction could start in December, Ahiarakwe said, and will take six to eight months to finish. The firm of Remington & Vernick is doing the engineering design and planning, he said.
J. Love, cutting hair next to Anderson, said the change may get him back on his bike.
“There are a lot of bikes out here,” Love said. “If it helps with safety, it’s a good idea.”
Love said he’s been hit twice while riding his bike in the city — once by a car, and another time by a bus. Luckily, neither incident injured him badly, as he was able to jump off the bike in time.
“I stopped riding after that,” Love said, except on the Boardwalk.
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post: 609-272-7219