A years-long effort to aimed at improving the aesthetics, accessibility and commercial value of the Ortley Beach business district is poised to pay off within months, officials said this week
The Ortley Beach “Streetscape” project, funded through state grants, may come to fruition by spring now that portions of the project have been redesigned to meet requests from the state. The streetscape project is a functional suite of improvements that will be made to boost the public’s experience in the area along Route 35 north, 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. In August, the Toms River Township council received another round of state funding to cover additional costs after a number of property owners refused to sign easements allowing the improvements to be made on their properties and officials requested a revised pedestrian plan.
The latest design was submitted to Trenton in November, and last week a number of stakeholders participated in a meeting which yielded positive news: the plan has been received favorable reviews from the state and will likely get underway this spring, said Councilman Justin Lamb.
“I know they’re eager to get this project off the ground, and it looks like it’s set to begin in late spring,” Lamb said. “We’ll definitely keep an eye on it.”
The revised plan from November is embedded underneath this story. The design calls for uniform LED streetlamps lining the business district, flanked by 2-foot tall banners emblazoned with the Ortley Beach signature “jumping dolphin” logo. Curbs and sidewalks will carry a pleasing “downtown-style” look, and American beach grass will be planted amidst stone mulch along the curbline.
The entrance to the business district from the Route 37/35 turnoff and from the Boulevard in Seaside Heights see a new “Welcome to Ortley Beach” sign featuring the logo, and a large swath of native plantings, from purple coneflowers, to switchgrass, to bayberries. Dune grass will be included as well. Meanwhile, smaller “gateway” signs will mark the entrance to the neighborhood from Lavallette to the north.
As a visitor to the business district travels the sidewalk, street ends will be marked with subdued pedestrian lighting near ground-level, surrounded by more coastal grasses and plantings. Uniformly-designed newspaper racks will replace deteriorating metal and plastic “paper boxes,” surrounded by benches and planters with black-eyed Susans and little goldstars. Trash and recycling receptacles will also be replaced with new stations, all carrying a common look.
Paul Jeffrey, a key advocate for the project and vice president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association, said he expects some physical work can be completed in the spring before the summer season kicks off, and additional work that does not disturb parking spaces, traffic or businesses can continue through summer.
The project was designed by NV5, a Florida-based consulting firm that provides infrastructure support for the government agencies and private-sector businesses.
The streetscape improvements come with no cost to taxpayers. Toms River received over $900,000 in federal funding through the state Department of Transportation’s Transportation Assistance Program (TAP) in 2016. The grant was part of the 2015 Ortley Beach Neighborhood Plan, funded with a post-Sandy recovery grant. Additional state grant funding has been incremnetally dedicated to the effort in the years since.
View the Full Design Plan: