By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Although it is only a half-mile long, 14th Street is considered one of Ocean City’s most important arteries for crosstown traffic.
Starting at the bay and heading east toward the ocean, the street passes through residential neighborhoods, crosses over the downtown business district and then ends at the Boardwalk.
Third Ward Councilman Jody Levchuk, who travels 14th Street every day from his home to his family-owned Jilly’s Boardwalk businesses, believes the road “definitely needs attention” because of its deteriorated condition and tendency for flooding.
Soon it will get it.
The city is in the design phase for an overhaul of the section of town from Ninth to 18th streets, including the flood-prone 14th Street. New drainage systems, stormwater pumping stations, pipes and road improvements are planned.
Michael Allegretto, aide to Mayor Jay Gillian, said the project is expected to go out to bid in the summer and get underway in the fall.
“Of the areas that we have not addressed yet, that is the highest priority,” Allegretto said of the work planned between Ninth and 18th Streets.
During a Zoom meeting Saturday for his Third Ward constituents, Levchuk assured local residents that 14th Street will be fixed.
“Just like you I wish that something like that would be an easy fix-it,” he said while snapping his fingers for emphasis. “But it’s unfortunate that we have it that way. But I can assure you it’s getting the attention it needs and deserves.”
Despite its importance for local traffic, 14th Street does not have the appearance of a key crosstown route. Large, temporary asphalt patches cover parts of the road, creating an uneven surface for motorists. There are cracks in the asphalt or potholes in other sections of the street. Some of the curbs are crumbling.
In an interview Saturday, Allegretto explained that 14th Street will be repaved once the drainage improvements are completed for the area between Ninth and 18th streets.
Referring to 14th Street’s subpar condition now, Levchuk said there are “a lot of really big issues on that street.”
But he repeatedly expressed his confidence that the mayor and his administration will repair the street as soon as possible.
“It definitely needs attention,” he said. “I don’t think they’re ignoring it. I believe they know there’s clearly an issue there. I can’t tell you what their exact plan is to do there, but I do believe that they’re focusing in on it and trying to come up with something. I’m hoping that Council will see some sort of resolution coming up soon. They’re on it.”
Perhaps the most pressing issue is 14th Street’s flooding problem in the area of Haven Avenue.
Levchuk, a first-term councilman, said he has mentioned the flooding problem at virtually every Council meeting he has attended since taking office last July.
“I’ve either spoken about it right before the meeting is starting or right after the meeting has ended or typically during the meeting itself. I’ve sent countless emails regarding 14th Street to our administration. They’re aware of the issue,” he said.
Ocean City resident Anne Stout, who lives in the neighborhood surrounding 14th Street, told Levchuk during the Zoom meeting that the area is often inundated with floodwater.
“I know you’re concerned,” Stout told Levchuk. “But it’s been a lot of years and a lot of issues that we’re dealing with there. We’d like to see some resolution with what’s happening. I know we’ll never been completely dry, but it needs to be a lot less wet.”
In response, Levchuk said, “I couldn’t agree more. It is not a street in our city that I’m proud of as far as the way it looks and what happens there. Nobody should. It’s out of the ordinary with the beautiful streets that are in Ocean City. So it 100 percent needs attention.”
The city’s plan to alleviate flooding between Ninth and 18th streets, including 14th Street, is part of a broad strategy to protect the island from stormwater. Overall, the city has proposed spending $25 million on flood-mitigation projects around town in the next five years.
Allegretto noted that the city is undertaking those projects following other successful flood-mitigation measures – including pumping stations, drainage upgrades and road improvements – that were added in the Merion Park neighborhood, the central part of town and the north end in recent years.
Go to Welcome to Ocean City, New Jersey, America’s Greatest Family Resort – Capital Projects (ocnj.us) and click on the Flood Mitigation Plans tab for more information.