Toms River officials have accepted additional funds from the state and have expanded a contract for a firm to design a “strreetscape” plan for the Route 35 business corridor in Ortley Beach.
The township council last week accepted an additional $70,419 in funding from the state Department of Transportation to update the neighborhood design plan, which seeks to create a walkable, visually-appealing downtown district in Ortley Beach with the aim of fostering safe pedestrian access and a thriving business district. The council also authorized the design firm, Nv5, to expend as much as $224,821 to develop the plan, an increase reflecting the additional state funding.
The plan calls for enhancements that will be made to improve the public’s experience in the area, including better lighting, pedestrian accessibility and bike racks. News stands and benches will line the streets. New gateway signage and landscaping will amplify the area as well.
The design firm already completed a design for the streetscape, but it was met with complications once the township sought to implement it. Specifically, the majority of business owners along Route 35 refused to sign easements allowing the state to use their properties for the design. A person with knowledge of the discussions said the state also favored a different pedestrian plan than what had been submitted, urging more functional lights along the business district rather than subdued pathway lighting that was deemed to be most aesthetically pleasing.
The latest round of funding will update the plan to reflect the state’s favored design, and may also include designs for updated electrical wiring that will support the modified pedestrian lighting features.
Once the new plan is created, it will go back to the DOT for approval, along with about a dozen other state agencies which all must sign off on it. There is no firm timeline on when work may actually begin on the project, considering the breadth of regulatory action required by the state, however officials said they are hoping work can begin sometime early in 2023.