“Atlantic City casinos crowd Atlantic Ave. Narrowing” back

Posted on: December 28, 2023, 6:25 am.

Last updated on: December 28, 2023, 6:25 am.

Several Atlantic City casinos have filed a lawsuit in New Jersey, asking a state judge to stop a project that will significantly narrow Atlantic Avenue in the city’s resort corridor.

Atlantic City Atlantic Avenue narrows the lawsuit
Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City looking north past Caesars. To reduce accidents involving pedestrians, work has begun to narrow the road from four lanes to two. (Image: Google Maps)

In November, Atlantic City received $10.3 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to narrow Atlantic Ave. between Boston Ave. and New Hampshire Ave. finance. The federal funding comes from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE). Program.

Dubbed a “road diet,” the project involves reducing the number of lanes along the roughly 2.7-mile route from four to two. The removed lanes will be replaced with ADA-accessible sidewalks, bike paths and wider pedestrian paths.

A study commissioned by the city found that there were 829 traffic accidents on the stretch of road between 2013 and 2017. Of these, over 9% or 75 incidents involved a pedestrian. Atlantic City officials, including Mayor Marty Small, believe narrowing the street will make the street safer for pedestrians and the public overall.

Five of the six casinos located on the boardwalk argue that the narrowing will further congest traffic and worsen the arrival and departure experience for guests.

Casinos are calling for a construction stop

Construction began Dec. 13 on the $24 million project, with the state funding the remaining $13.7 million.

In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey Superior Court, Bally’s, Caesars, Hard Rock, Resorts and Tropicana are asking Judge Michael Blee to issue an injunction halting work until a road narrowing study is completed. Ocean Casino Resort, the northernmost Boardwalk casino and presumably the least affected, is not participating in the litigation.

“We are concerned that this will create congestion and traffic issues, all of which would impact our customers’ experience entering and exiting our properties,” said Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts and the Casino Association of New Jersey, the local gaming industry lobbying group in Trenton . “This change in traffic patterns on Atlantic Avenue could have very real impacts on public health, safety and overall well-being.”

Blee refused to issue an immediate order as requested by a handful of plaintiffs last week. He will wait to make a final decision until he provides more information during a hearing scheduled for Jan. 26.

Blee wasn’t exactly a fan of Atlantic City casinos.

In August 2022, Blee reversed the state’s decision to change its Atlantic City PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) structure, which determines how much property taxes the nine casinos must pay. State lawmakers agreed to remove iGaming from the calculation, which is based on annual gross gaming revenue, but Blee ruled that the agreement violated the New Jersey Constitution. A legislative amendment was later drafted to clarify to Atlantic County what it would receive, including iGaming.

Large pedestrian path

State and local officials argue that more pedestrian and bicycle options are needed along Atlantic Avenue.

“Atlantic City, known for its resorts, casinos and Boardwalk, has a large share of residents who use alternative transportation daily: About 30% of residents use public transportation and 17% walk to work,” according to a report from July 2021 The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Research read. “On centrally located Atlantic Avenue, high pedestrian traffic and a disproportionate number of traffic accidents have prompted multiple studies to determine the extent of infrastructure improvements needed to support pedestrian and bicycle safety and address vehicular traffic deficiencies.”

Lawyers representing the casinos seeking a stay of construction say their clients want the redevelopment of Atlantic Ave. and support the synchronization of the road’s traffic lights to improve traffic flow. However, the resorts believe a more comprehensive study is needed to examine the potential impact of the road narrowing on traffic on neighboring streets.

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