There will be just one open lane of traffic into Seaside Heights for this Saturday’s annual Polar Plunge event, prompting local and state officials to urge motorists to use an alternate route – namely, Route 35 – into the borough.
Seaside Heights officials attempted to convince the state Department of Transportation to remove barricades and open an additional lane of the Route 37 bridge – currently undergoing a rehabilitation project –to island-bound traffic, but were unsuccessful. Currently, the Stanley E. Tunney Bridge, which carries traffic to the island from Toms River, is closed, and eastbound traffic is rerouted by way of one lane over the Thomas A. Mathis bridge.
“They’re not going to budge,” said Seaside Heights Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz.
State officials issued a traffic advisory Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of the plunge, urging drivers to access the island from the north by way of Point Pleasant Beach or the Mantoloking Bridge in Brick. Seaside Heights officials said they would do all they could to alleviate traffic jams entering the town.
“We’ll work cooperatively with the Sheriff’s Department, but there’s nothing we can do if the DOT says they’re not going to move [the barricades],” Mayor Anthony Vaz said Wednesday.
Although one eastbound lane is open, motorists choosing to use Route 37 eastbound to get to special events in Seaside Heights can expect congestion and delays, the state’s advisory said. For motorists still planning on using the Route 37 bridge, no vehicles or trailers exceeding 11 feet in width will be permitted on the bridge heading eastbound into Seaside Heights.
“I know we’ll take the blame, and that’s part of our responsibility, but sometimes we don’t have control,” Anthony Vaz said.
The plunge takes place Saturday along the borough’s boardwalk, primarily in between Webster and Sumner avenues. Parking will be at a premium, according to borough officials. The plunge itself occurs after 12 noon, however revelers generally arrive early and stay after the event takes place. The plunge raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for New Jersey Special Olympics.