Park Road was closed to traffic before its reconstruction and repaving were completed.


Sea Isle City will certainly never be Mt. Everest-like in height, but one local official has an idea for making it a tiny bit higher.

The city’s elevation above sea level ranges from a mere 3.8 feet to 9 feet, leaving the island susceptible to flooding in low-lying areas throughout town, according to a stormwater report released in 2018.

City Council President Jack Gibson is proposing a way to add a few inches to the elevation to help protect Sea Isle from stormwater and rising sea levels.

He wants to see more asphalt left on the roads during paving projects, when possible.

Instead of having Sea Isle’s construction contractors remove the entire top layer of old asphalt, Gibson wants them to leave it alone and simply pave over top of it – effectively raising the elevation of the road by as much as a few inches.

“Why shave off the top of the road? Why can’t we top off the road and gain a few inches?” Gibson said during an interview Sunday.

Gibson is a civil engineer by profession and has worked on a multitude of road projects over the years. In the 1960s, he served as Cape May County’s engineer.

During the Dec. 14 City Council meeting, Gibson said he thinks Sea Isle should have a formal policy to save the old asphalt on local roads, when possible, instead of allowing contractors to completely strip it away during repaving projects.

“We won’t gain much, but we’ll gain a little bit,” he told his fellow Council members about how the roads would be a little higher to help prevent flooding.

City Council President Jack Gibson, shown in a 2017 photo, hopes to provide more protection from flooding by elevating the roads.

Normally, contractors tear up all of the old asphalt to prepare the road for repaving. The process is called milling.

The new asphalt leaves the road surface smoother. Gibson said smoother roads are important for high-speed traffic, but most of Sea Isle’s streets have a 25-mph limit. The speed limit on Pleasure Avenue is only 15 mph.

With speed limits so low, a “little imperfection” in the road surface by paving over the old asphalt would hardly make a difference, Gibson said.

Gibson explained that the gutters on road projects would still be milled as part of the repaving work. Manholes would have to be raised if the roads are made higher to prevent them from being covered up by new pavement, he noted.

Paving over the old asphalt would only work on the wider streets to give them a higher “crown,” Gibson said. If done on narrow streets, it would create a gap between the road and the gutters that would cause cars to bottom out when people pulled into their driveways.

“On a narrow road, you can’t have a crown because you’ll have a difficult time getting in driveways,” Gibson said.

Gibson came up with the idea for making Sea Isle’s streets higher while watching the reconstruction of Park Avenue from John F. Kennedy Boulevard to 48th Street.

He emphasized, though, that the Park Road project was “excellent” and would not have been a candidate for his proposal to elevate the streets by paving over the existing asphalt.

Park Road at 48th Street is stripped of its old top layer of asphalt in preparation for its repaving.

Sea Isle already elevates some roads as part of a broad strategy to ease flooding in low-lying areas. A flood-mitigation report released in 2018 noted that the island’s elevation “plays a significant role in flooding.”

“Barrier islands are generally flat and low in elevation. Sea Isle City is no exception to this rule. The City does contain areas which are higher in elevation. These areas are less affected by flooding. The areas of the City which are low in elevation experience chronic flooding conditions,” the report stated.

The report also said that Sea Isle has already implemented a series of flood-mitigation initiatives, such as restoring the beaches and dunes, building bulkheads along the bayfront, upgrading the drainage systems and erecting berms and levees. The city also plans to build more stormwater pumping stations.

In the overall scheme of things, Gibson said his idea to elevate the roads a few inches would be a “minor improvement” to make the city less vulnerable to flooding.

“Raising the height of the road is one of our tools,” he said.