BRIGANTINE — Changes are on the way for the 34th Street traffic circle.
The city will redesign the shape and traffic flow to make the lighthouse circle a “true circle,” since according to the law, the lighthouse circle isn’t a true roundabout circle but an obstructed roadway.
Work on the changes to the circle will start after the summer tourism season, officials said.
By the time the project is done, the roundabout will have one lane entering and exiting, stop signs will be removed and yield signs will be placed at the entrance of the circle, City Manager Jim Bennett said.
Last week, City Council approved a $16,200 contract with Point Pleasant Beach-based Beach Engineering BT for engineering evaluation for the project.
“We feel that it will alleviate any confusion, make it safer for all drivers and traffic will flow better,” Bennett said.
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The redevelopment of the circle is estimated to cost $2.1 million. The project has not gone out to bid yet, Bennett said.
In addition to making the circle safer, the project will include drainage improvements. The area has been prone to flooding due to collapsed drainpipes near the circle.
The cost of the project will be split between the city and Atlantic County. Under an agreement, which was approved by council in September, the county will be responsible for 78% of the cost, while the city will pick up the rest of the tab.
Talks about redesigning the lighthouse circle traffic pattern have been going on for some time, Bennett said.
“In the last couple years, mayor and council, along with support from our county commissioners and County Exec Denny Levinson, were able to begin the process. The circle is indeed a traffic diversion device and not a true circle or roundabout,” said Bennett. “With the increase in our summertime population, we wanted to address it and make it safer and clearer for all to navigate.”
Despite the changes to the traffic patterns, there aren’t any plans to change the iconic lighthouse at the center of the circle.
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The lighthouse has been at the site since 1926. It was built by Island Development Real Estate Company to attract people to the resort. Over the years, it has served as the headquarters for the Brigantine Police Department, a museum and even a gift shop.
One of the major issues with the lighthouse circle is that some drivers treat it like it’s a circle, while other drivers treat it like an obstructed roadway, which causes a lot of confusion since the difference means different rules to follow.
Since many out-of-towners are unfamiliar with how to navigate the circle’s traffic pattern, the obstructed roadway is a hub for vehicular accidents and incidents.
“I can say that there have been a decent amount of accidents and near misses are increasing each year with our increased visitor population, who are unfamiliar with this unique intersection design,” Bennett said.
The project also includes the construction of new sidewalks around the entire circle, marked pedestrian crossings at intersections, reshaping the parking for the commercial building on the circle’s ocean side and green spaces on the bayside.
County officials estimated engineering and design work to the circle will take about eight months to complete. No timetable has been set for the start of construction, but the city has a moratorium on construction from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
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