TOMS RIVER-Ocean County Freeholder Joseph Vicari would like to see Trenton do more to fix the current conditions of New Jersey’s state roads that pass through Toms River as construction projects have seemingly spun out out control.
Vicari said the project to improve Route 166 and Route 37 have had adverse effects on local businesses and traffic long before the reported motorcycle crash last week due to potholes on Route 37.
“Before this incident, we have been telling the state they need to do a better job,” Vicari said. “I had the chance to meet and speak with Governor Murphy when he was here and I asked him if he could do something, he said he would look into it.”
Vicari said the crash on Route 37 that went viral last week only highlighted the problems he and other residents have faced for quite some time. Vicari lives near Route 37 and he said the road had been littered with potholes, but is powerless to help residents because it is ultimately a state road, outside of the jurisdiction of the county. Vicari said occasionally, state road crews drive by filling holes with “cold patch”, which he described essentially as compacted gravel.
“Now, cars drive down the road and now they have rocks coming at their windows, they’re hitting potholes, it’s all costing the drivers here,” he said.
Vicari also criticized two Chris Christie era road projects, the Route 37 bridge and Route 166. Vicari said the nearly $100 million bridge project could have been done differently with a long term goal in mind.
“Here we spent all this month, to repair a nearly 75 year old bridge that was damaged in Superstorm Sandy for tens of millions of dollars and it looks no better than it did before,” he said. “We still have a draw bridge that opens every 30 minutes, backs up traffic in the summer all the way down Route 37, affects businesses along the road when we should have probably replaced it. Eventually it will have to be torn down and replace, why not do it when we had the opportunity? So now, we spent all this money that might get us another twenty years or so, then we’ll have to tear it down and build a new one.”
When it comes to the pothole issues on Route 37, Vicari said there is a state plan to repave the highway, but he doesn’t expect it to begin until at least 2019.
Meanwhile, on Route 166, troubles continue for businesses plagued with constant traffic pattern shifts and closures. Vicari said at some points during construction, some of the local businesses had to be shut down because of the construction, costing local merchants much needed income.
Toms River Councilman Brian Kubiel said he has been adamant on making sure the state knows the burdens being placed on local residents because of the construction and neglect along Route 37.
“This is another reason why I have been an advocate to have Governor Murphy to take charge of this project and get it completed,” Kubiel who is also the administrator of the Toms River Fire Department. “Unfortunately, this incident could have resulted in death. Thankfully they were experienced riders who knew how to deal with the situation which prevented serious injuries.”
Vicari said he will give the new governor a chance to remedy the situation, since most of the problems facing Toms River’s state roads come at the hands of former Republican Governor Chris Christie.