By DON STINE
The railroad crossing in Allenhurst at Allen Avenue will be permanently closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic under a proposal now being presented to borough officials.
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) and NJ Transit (NJT) are planning to close the Allen Avenue railroad crossing between Main Street and Lake Drive. Borough Administrator Donna Campagna said NJT updated the Spier and Corlies avenue crossings last year at a cost of about $500,000 each and has been conducting traffic studies on Allen Avenue.
“We were told about closing the Allen Avenue crossing when the other two were updated. This will not just affect people in town, but beachgoers, shoppers and visitors. We are all against it,” she said.
The state has said there is not enough traffic at Allen Avenue to justify upgrading and maintaining that crossing.
A diagnostic meeting was held on Tues., Sept. 26 at the Allen Avenue crossing with borough, DOT, and NJT officials attending. Several times tempers flared during the meeting.
“We made it very clear at the meeting that we do not want this crossing closed,” Mayor David McLaughlin said.
The mayor said NJT will now make a formal recommendation to close the crossing to the borough and to state DOT officials, who must approve the closure.
He said proposed redevelop of the old JCP&L site in the borough, dense summertime traffic, and the potential to back traffic up on Main Street are all concerns.
“It also means one less way for emergency vehicles to cross the railroad tracks,” he said.
McLaughlin said there will be a local public meeting on the NJT proposal once the borough receives the formal recommendation. Responses to the formal recommendation are to made in writing only.
Campagna urges residents to contact DOT and NJT officials.
“We urge residents to voice their concerns,” she said.
Rose O’Connor-Myer, co-owner of the Jersey Shore Antique Center at 413 Allen Ave., said she sees “a myriad of problems” being created by closing the crossing, one of three in Allenhurst. The others are at Corlies and Spier Avenues.
She said she has already gathered several hundred signatures on a petition opposing the NJT proposal, saying safety issues are immediately raised when one of the three main east-west egresses off of Main Street is closed.
“It may create traffic jams and pose a hardship for police and fire first responders- and for obvious reasons. Kids will not even be allowed to ride their bikes across the tracks there,” she said.
O’Connor-Myer, who has lived in the borough for 22 years, said summer traffic has greatly increased recently and that the downtown is very busy during peak hours.
“But I can live with that- but closing off the railroad crossing is a bad idea and will only send more traffic through neighboring towns,” she said.
O’Connor-Myer said she and her husband bought the 14,000-square-foot Jersey Shore Antique Center because it has plenty of nearby parking and there was a good traffic flow.
“But now drivers will have to take a route around the lake and not discover the center. Nobody should have the ability to do that. Personally, I feel that this NJT proposal is only to cut costs,” she said.
Stu Kramer, general manager Cravings Gourmet Desserts at 310 Main Street, said he believes the closure may hurt his business and be a safety risk.
“People find it hard to park on Main Street so they circle around hoping to find a parking spot. If they close the crossing then there is no easy way to go around the block. It interrupts the normal flow traffic in the borough and, actually, be dangerous. I think people will begin making U-turns on Main Street and someone will get hurt,” he said.
He also said that the design of Lake Drive makes it difficult to access the street other than through Allen Avenue. He also said he believes closing Spier Avenue rather than Allen Avenue would be a better alternative if they mandate closing a railroad crossing.
“But it is pretty clear that people don’t want any closures,” he said.
NJT Transit recently closed off the Summerfield Avenue railroad crossing in Asbury Park even though city officials, fire and police, residents, and business owners opposed it.