The Manasquan Borough Council on Monday adopted a $1.3 million bond ordinance to fund the reconstruction of Squan Plaza, and while it looks like the governing body is moving ahead with its own engineer's design, one local stakeholder presented her own alternative.
The bond ordinance, adopted by a 4-0 vote, allocates $1.23 million in bonded funds and a $65,000 down payment for a reconfiguration project at Squan Plaza that officials say would add parking spaces, improve traffic safety and increase green space along Abe Vorhees Avenue. Council members Patricia Connolly and Don Grasso were absent.
Borough Engineer Charles Rooney of T&M Associates has said his company's proposed plan would replace the plaza's aging and decaying infrastructure, reconfigure the parking lot and driving lanes to accomodate more cars, enhance safety and limit confusion, and install trees and shrubbery where currently none exist.
But Fran Drew, of Third Avenue, presented the governing body with an alternative design sketch by landscape architect Dimitry Levitsky, of Frenchtown, along with written findings from a Pennsylvania engineering firm that claimed the alternative plan was safer than the T&M plan for cars and pedestrians.
While Rooney declined to respond Monday, he has previously said his firm's plan would enhance the safety of the plaza's current layout.
"We believe the reconfigured (T&M) plan is much (safer) for vehicular traffic, pedestrian and bike traffic than the existing layout," Rooney has said.
The alternative plan, or Levitksy plan, would eliminate the traffic circle around the fountain at the center of the plaza and add parking spaces along the east-west connecting lane between South Street and Route 71, which Levitsky said would slow traffic.
Sketches of both plans are attached to the PDF section of this story.
The report from Drew's traffic engineer, Joseph M. Fiocco, of the Trevose, Penn. based firm Fiocco Engineering, also indicated that the Levitsky plan would be the safer of the two plans.
A traditional "T" intersection, the report said, would eliminate confusion and higher speeds at the circle intersection. And parking spots along the east-west connecting lane would "remind motorists that they are in a parking lot," the report said.
Rooney has said the plaza's angular parking spaces are unsafe and its wide driving lanes confuse motorists and promote speeding.
The T&M plan, Rooney has said, would narrow the driving lanes running east and west to an industry standard 24 feet width.
The plan would also add between 18 and 28 additional parking spaces depending on whether or not the council decided to add a bike lane along the north end of the plaza, eliminating 10 potential parking spots.
The parking lot under the T&M plan would also be reconfigured to perpendicular, or 90-degree, parking spaces bringing the total to between 149 and 159 spaces from the plaza's current 131 spaces. The Levitsky plan has 160 parking spaces.
The new layout proposed by T&M would also be more amenable to fairs and flea markets, Rooney has said.
The estimated cost of the repaving and infrastructure work is $1,062,240, Rooney said. But after adding more green space, landscaping and lighting, the price tag would top out at roughly $1.3 million, officials have said.
A culvert that runs underneath the plaza also needs replacement, Rooney has said.
Both plans would fix the culvert surrounding the underground portion of Judah Creek that runs across the plaza, but the Levitsky plan would allow most of the stream to daylight.
The Levitsky plan, Drew said, has been estimated by James Gilday of the Little Silver-based Moss Gilday Group, a landscape architecture, site planning and urban design firm, to cost $1,107,918. That total includes both the infrastructure overhaul and amenities such as lighting, landscaping and benches, Drew said.
The borough has applied for several grants to help fund the project but has not yet received any responses, Borough Administrator Joseph DeIorio said.
In an email, DeIorio wrote that the borough has spent several years analyzing different plans and believes the surrounding community is behind the T&M plan.
"Since 2006, the Borough of Manasquan has reviewed many plans and conceptual ideas and continues to encourage the public for additional input," DeIorio wrote. "Recently, the borough met with adjacent property owners and businesses as well as fire officials who were very receptive to the T&M plan and are encouraged that work will be done this year."
Council President Ed Donovan said he would announce the date of a public hearing to review the proposed plan at the governing body's April 2 meeting.