By Donald Wittkowski
On Tuesday morning, a man held the hand of a young boy as they scurried across the busy Landis Avenue corridor while heading to the beach in the north end of Sea Isle City.
A jogger and her leashed dog ran along the edge of the blacktop as traffic whizzed by them just a few feet away on the same stretch of road.
And on another part of Landis Avenue, a group of bicyclists cautiously pedaled down the road while dodging traffic.
This congested roadway linking Sea Isle and neighboring Strathmere has pedestrians, bikers and motorists all competing for the same space, but Cape May County has stepped in to try to reduce the dangers.
The county is putting the final touches on a restriping project that will create wider, protective buffers for pedestrians, bikers and beachgoers by eliminating parking along one side of the road.
“It will be safer for families who park near the dunes and unload their beach equipment,” Sea Isle spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
Parking will be eliminated along the west, or land side, of the road from 22nd Street in Sea Isle to Strathmere.
To compensate for the loss of street parking, two new parking areas are being built on Sea Isle-owned property at Fifth Street and Seventh Street to create nearly 200 parking spaces.
The county controls the roadway, which is variously known as Ocean Drive and Route 619. The part that runs through Sea Isle is called Landis Avenue. In the Strathmere section of Upper Township, the road is known as Commonwealth Avenue.
The three-mile corridor is dotted with a series of yellow signs warning motorists to be careful of bikers, pedestrians and even the turtles that cross the road in summer to look for nesting spots.
By the end of the week, there will be new “No Parking” signs placed on the west side. There will also be more signs that warn motorists of pedestrians crossing the road, officials said.
“We need a lot of ‘no parking’ signs. That’s a long stretch of road where people won’t be able to park,” Sea Isle City Business Administrator George Savastano said.
Bob Lawler, a road inspector for Cape May County, said that “99 percent” of the restriping has been completed.
Construction of the two new parking areas at Fifth and Seventh streets should be finished by the end of the week. All of the new road signs are expected to be in place this week, Lawler said.
The Landis Avenue-Commonwealth Avenue corridor’s beachside location makes it a popular route for cars, bicyclists and pedestrians during the summer vacation season. However, all that activity squeezed into the narrow lanes creates hazards. A lack of sidewalks makes it even trickier for bikers and walkers.
Michael Dannemiller, principal engineer for NV5, a consulting firm that studied the restriping project for the county, said there were 16 motor vehicle accidents on this stretch of road between 2012 and 2016. In 2016, a bicyclist was killed by a car in Upper Township. Two pedestrians were injured when they were hit by cars, Dannemiller said.
Hoping to reduce the conflicts and dangers, the county worked with both Sea Isle and Upper Township on the restriping plan. County officials estimated the cost of the project at between $200,000 and $250,000.
For Sea Isle, Landis Avenue is a key artery for the beach town. The ongoing shutdown of the aged Townsends Inlet Bridge for repairs has left Landis Avenue and Sea Isle Boulevard as the only ways on and off the barrier island for now.