The marshland area behind the Cape May County Library at 48th Street is being eyed by one Sea Isle councilman for an extension to link Park Road and Central Avenue.

By Donald Wittkowski

Sea Isle City should consider building a road project that would link two parallel streets and create a new evacuation route to help residents escape from storm flooding, a councilman said Tuesday.

Councilman Jack Gibson proposed connecting Park Road and Central Avenue with a 500-foot-long extension that would run through the marshlands behind the Cape May County Library at 48th Street.

Gibson envisions linking Park and Central around 50th or 51st streets. Currently, motorists must travel down 48th Street by the library to access Central from Park and vice versa.

Calling it the “Park-Central extension,” he said it would create a new north-south evacuation route to help motorists get off the island when it floods.

Gibson, speaking during Tuesday’s Council meeting, said he believes the city’s flooding problems will only worsen in years to come because of rising ocean levels that threaten New Jersey’s coastline.

“Seashore communities that are islands with valuable real estate have to think of long-term plans to survive,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

Gibson said a small rainstorm this past week showed how vulnerable the low-lying island is to flooding.

“This was a simple rainstorm we had,” he said.

Parts of the city’s main roadways, Landis and Central avenues, were flooded during the storm, making it difficult for traffic to move in a north-south direction, he said.

He noted the only road to remain dry was Pleasure Avenue, but it is a one-way street.

Gibson wants to add his Park-Central extension to the city’s capital plan to get it in the pipeline.

The project would cut across existing marshlands, so it would need approval from environmental regulators. Gibson asserted that creating a new evacuation route would be “plenty of justification” for building the connector through an environmentally sensitive area.

His proposal to connect Park and Central is his latest idea to fight flooding. At the Sept. 13 Council meeting, he called on the city to study the possibility of building an elevated parking garage to protect residents’ cars from flood waters.

Gibson believes Sea Isle should have a comprehensive flood-control plan that looks well into the future, perhaps as far out as 2050.

Council members said Tuesday that the city’s new capital plan and master plan will both recommend a series of projects that are part of a long-range strategy to reduce flooding, including new pumping stations and higher bulkheads.

Councilman John Divney noted the city must ultimately decide whether it would be able to afford so many projects.

The city has scheduled a public workshop Oct. 25 to discuss which projects should be included in the upcoming five-year capital plan, Business Administrator George Savastano said.

Council is expected to vote on the capital plan in December. Funding approval would be needed later from Council to finance the construction of individual projects in the plan, Savastano said.