Sunday, April 13, 2014

Barnegat Branch Rail Trail Bridges Into Lacey

The momentum to complete the Barnegat Branch Rail Trail in Central Ocean County continues with a new section between Waretown and Forked River that opened quietly in late fall of 2013. On Saturday this former no mans land around the Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant was teeming with cyclists, joggers, dog walkers. And it was more than people out for nice walk or ride.  I observed perhaps a dozen trail users accessing local shopping centers and NJ TRANSIT bus stops along the adjacent Route 9.

Rebuilt Abandoned RR Bridge over Oyster Creek

The south end of the trail now extends 7 miles from just north of Bay Avenue in Barnegat Township to just south of Lacey Rd in Lacey Township. Other completed sections are in Beachwood Boro and Berkeley Township. When completed the trail will stretch 15 miles to downtown Toms River. The surface is mostly a packed stone dust aggregate but paved at the road intersections along with boardwalk bridges. I doubt if anyone with bike tires wider than 23mm (.9 inches) will have an issue with this trail.

But the key segment that will connect the Lacey section with the north end has proven to the most explosive. For more than a decade Township officials have fought for and finally won to convert the abandoned Barnegat Branch line into a new road (Railroad Ave extension). This road is envisioned as a bypass for Route 9 and opposition to the road in favor of the converting the rail to a trail was well organized but in the end the Township voted in leadership that favored the road in 2012. The plan moved forward when NJ DEP issued a permit for the road in August of 2013.

The trail is planned to built as a sidepath along this stretch of road but one has to wonder if the outcome would have been different if the southern half of the trail was completed before the 2012 election. 

Regardless, there is a long way to go before the completion of Railroad Avenue, the final design (which will give an estimate closer to the real cost) has not been completed. The Township has a complete streets policy and this is one project that we will be monitoring to see if this local project made from scratch walks the walk.


Andrew J. Besold said...

Nice update John. I get a laugh out the "cattle shut" bridge though. Why is it that New Jersians are can't be trusted not to jump or throw stuff off a pedestrian bridge and are subject to a most vial design more fitting of maximum security prison? Elsewhere pedestrian bridges on multi-use pathways are glorious, architecturally wondrous structures.

So typical of Jersey. "Built to suit your low expectations."

Andrew J. Besold said...

Case in point about how other states make BEAUTIFUL bike / ped bridges. Notice the lack of 90 and 180 degree turns.

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Joe Root said...

I guess this message is totally unparalleled. prefab bridges