By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City officials believe they are now going in the right direction in a debate over whether to make three streets into one-way or two-way traffic.
City Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday to convert parts of 40th, 51st and 52nd streets back into two-way routes after neighbors had raised objections about a proposal to make them one way.
The governing body initially passed an ordinance last December to turn them into one-way streets. However, the city never erected the one-way signs, so traffic has continued to flow in both directions and no tickets have been issued by police.
Council President Mary Tighe noted that “many, many residents” complained about the proposed switchover to one-way traffic, so the decision was made to keep 40th, 51st and 52nd as two-way streets.
“We got lots and lots of feedback,” Tighe said during Tuesday’s Council meeting.
Bob Boyer, who has lived on 51st Street for 60 years, said the road has always been two-way traffic. He pointed out that two-way traffic flow makes it easier for the neighbors to travel around town and avoid flooding during coastal storms.
“It works out both ways for us,” Boyer said.
Rich Stagliano, who lives on 52nd Street and Landis Avenue, directly across the street from Boyer, also noted that two-way traffic gives neighbors more flexibility when they drive around the city.
“We want to make right turns out of our street instead of lefts,” Stagliano said.
Boyer and Stagliano believe two-way streets are safer, too. One-way streets encourage motorists to speed because they don’t have to slow down for oncoming traffic, they said.
Under the old plan, Council had proposed turning a block-long stretch of 40th, 51st and 52nd streets into one-way routes. It would have included 40th Street between Central and Cini avenues, 51st Street between Central and Landis avenues and 52nd Street between Central and Landis avenues.
But now, Council has reversed direction, voting Tuesday to introduce a new ordinance to go back to two-way streets. Council has scheduled a public hearing and final vote on the ordinance for its May 19 meeting.
The city initially proposed making the three streets into one-way traffic for safety reasons. City Business Administrator George Savastano noted that the police department recommended the change after studying the streets.
Savastano explained that the streets are simply too narrow for traffic to get by in both directions when cars are parked on both sides of the roads, particularly during the busy summer tourism season.
“Two cars often can’t fit going opposite directions,” he said.
Parking shortages and traffic flow are two major issues during the summer, when Sea Isle swells into a bustling vacation resort crowded with tens of thousands of tourists. City officials are looking for ways to improve traffic flow on narrow and congested streets during the summer.
In the meantime, the city will study the traffic flow on 40th, 51st and 52nd streets during the summer to see how the two-way plan works out. It will also collect feedback from the neighbors on whether to revisit the issue in the fall, Tighe said.
“So, we will be following up on this in the fall,” she said.
City officials are promising to keep residents closely informed about the changes. Letters will be sent out to all of the neighbors to seek their feedback, Savastano said.
During the Council meeting on April 10, a handful of neighbors complained that the city did not notify them after the proposed change to one-way streets was originally approved in December.