Casinos, hospital ask judge to halt Atlantic City road narrowing, say traffic could cost jobs, lives

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — Five Boardwalk casinos and a hospital want a judge to prevent Atlantic City from completing a controversial program to narrow the main thoroughfare that runs through the city's center, saying such a move could hurt business and endanger lives during periods of heavy traffic.

The AtlantiCare hospital system and Caesars, Tropicana, Bally's, Hard Rock and Resorts casinos are asking a Supreme Court judge to put an end to the project, which began on December 13.

The city says the federally and state-funded project will make a dangerous road safer at no cost to local taxpayers. Officials said narrowing the road was a requirement to accept the $24 million in state funds.

Last Friday, Atlantic County Judge Michael Blee declined to issue the immediate injunction that the casinos and hospital had tried to halt the project. Instead, the judge will hear the full details of the situation at a hearing on January 26.

Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts and of the Casino Association of New Jersey, the industry trade group, said the casinos support the repaving and traffic light synchronization aspects of the project, which aims to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries at 4, 2 miles (4.2 km). 2.6 miles) from Atlantic Avenue.

But he said a full study should be done to investigate the potential impact of narrowing the road. He also said such a plan would have to be approved by a government agency, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which has power over traffic in the area that includes Atlantic Avenue.

He said the casinos have been asking the city for more than a year to conduct such a study, which would try to predict how traffic would be pushed onto other roads in more residential areas, as well as Pacific Avenue, which he said is already is overwhelmed. due to traffic during rush hours. The six Boardwalk casinos have entrances along Pacific Avenue.

“This change in traffic patterns on Atlantic Avenue could have very real consequences for public health, safety and general well-being,” Giannantonio said in a statement.

He said the hospital's ambulances routinely use Atlantic Avenue to transport critically ill or injured patients to the trauma center, where the loss of one lane could deprive emergency vehicles of a passing lane to get around stopped traffic.

He also noted that Atlantic Avenue is one of the main evacuation routes in the oft-flooded coastal city.

Regarding the impact on casinos, he said: “We are concerned that this will cause congestion and traffic problems, all of which would detract from our customers' experience in reaching and leaving our properties.”

It's not an unfounded concern; Even with four lanes available on Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City can become difficult to drive through during busy summer or holiday periods, especially when special events such as the summer air show or one or more major concerts are taking place in town.

Mayor Marty Small defended the project and took heart from the judge's decision not to issue an immediate order to halt work.

A study commissioned by the city on which the plan is partly based counted 829 collisions on the road between 2013 and 2017. Of those, 75 – or 9.1% – involved pedestrians who were struck. Small said he knew several people who died in accidents on Atlantic Avenue.

“Some very powerful people have tried to stop this project from the beginning, but the small government has resisted them all,” he said in a statement after Friday's ruling. “People keep wanting to make this about traffic flow. , but this project is being carried out in the name of safety for residents and visitors.”

The Greater Atlantic City Chamber, one of several business organizations in the city, also supports the repaving and synchronization of traffic signals. But the group says it also wants to see a traffic study on the impact of reducing road space by 50%.


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