The Route 37-166 road project has a final completion date…for real this time
It's taken three years but a completion date for the Route 37-166 road project in Toms River has been set...again...but for real this time.
The $11,700,000.00 project includes upgrades for the intersection of Route 166 and Route 37 with a raised median barrier between opposing traffic, improvement of the roadway geometry, making traffic signal improvements between Highland Parkway and Old Freehold Road, and widening the roadway by constructing a new through lane on Route 166 northbound and southbound.
New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Saidel talked with WOBM News in August of 2018 and cited the Transportation Trust Fund, when then Governor Chris Christie ordered a shutdown of the TTF, that caused the Route 37-166 work to stall between July and October of 2016.
Saidel said the estimated time frame for the completion of this project would be the end of 2018 outside of some landscaping work but nothing that would affect your commute.
That deadline has come and gone.
Frustrated commuters and business owners who've voiced their anger can find solace in news from NJ DOT Spokewoman Mairin Bellack who tells WOBM News today, that it will be done this spring for sure.
"The final configuration will be done in the spring," Bellack said. "Unfortunately we have to wait for warmer weather to do the final paving but as of right now the construction has been done, it's just waiting for the final paving."
Delays after delays are the biggest reason the work has yet to be completed and none bigger than the aforementioned TTF Shutdown which not only stopped work but forced the DOT to reschedule times with utility companies to come back in and do the work they needed to do.
Bellack acknowledges this has taken a while but things will soon be finished.
"Every project that we approach we approach it with the priority of safety and with this project safety was definitely on our minds by widening the roads," Bellack said. "Unfortunately I know the residents are very upset, I'm very sympathetic to the complications that rose with the TTF Shutdown and also with rescheduling the utilities but once the project is complete, which will just be several nights of paving work in the spring, it'll definitely ease the congestion on that roadway."
Bellack says with safety always being the priority it meant some carefully crafted work being done including, "lying down some drainage pipe that was roughly 400-feet, 30-inches which has all been installed."
For some it may be hard to believe the actual end is in sight after several delays but Bellack again states that it's only some nighttime paving left.
"Everything as far as the hard work has been completed and the final paving will be over several nights in the spring," Bellack said. "We don't have any large expected construction that will be coming in the future, it's just the final paving."
It wasn't just the delays that frustrated businesses and commuters but communication with the DOT.
"I can only look forward that as far as the project goes it is complete except for the final paving," Bellack said.
They've been trying to keep everyone up to date, Bellack said, on where the project has been at.
"We've always kept open lines of communications with the community and we're definitely committed to the community," Bellack said.
Bellack says there haven't been any issues with funding or a shortage of workers that would have caused any additional delays.
"The funding has already been allocated so it was just with the TTF Shutdown and getting back the utilities, but funding is not an issue," Bellack said. "To my knowledge there have not been any issues with a shortage of contractors."
Patience had worn thin from the daily commuters in this stretch of Ocean County before the news of a final completion date was announced for the spring of this year.
Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari told WOBM News in March of 2018 that if work on this project wasn't done by the end of 2018, he was going to let everyone know who is to blame.
A month later Vicari's crusade continued when he spoke to Governor Murphy in-person to try and get things moving.
Among the issues Vicari voiced was a lack of communication from the NJ DOT on when they will be working on a given stretch of the road.
"No one knows what's going to happen, they (road crews) just come and shut down the business, they don't say anything and cars cannot access their parking lot so they lose days of business day after day after day," Vicari said. "It cannot be tolerated anymore."
Businesses began to vent their frustrations.
Larry Schuster, the owner of Schuster's Toms River Car Wash, thinks it's the slowest project ever and is worthy of recognition by the Guinness Book of World Records.
"I was just sitting here thinking 'Wow, this has been really long.' I just Googled it and I figured I'd fill it out, send it in and see what happens," Schuster said.
Guinness spokeswoman Rachel Gluck said Schuster will be sent set of guidelines specific to that record category that must be adhered to.
"This also details a list of evidence that must be submitted in order for our team to verify the record. Within 12-15 weeks of submission, our Records Management Team then reviews the evidence and will confirm the success or failure of the record attempt," Gluck said in an email.
There have been droves of people over recent months calling Toms River officials asking them why the road work hasn't been done, but it's not their responsibility.
That's because they're not town roads, they're county roads, and it's a New Jersey Department of Transportation project.
The work on this project began by the NJ DOT in March of 2016 and it's taken a long time to press forward.
Here's a news timeline of the Route 37-166 road project to this point:
TOMS RIVER’S CORINNE JEWELERS IS SO OVER ROUTE 166’S CONSTRUCTION" align="center"]
More From The Jersey Shore: