ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City got the green light Friday to move forward with a project to reduce the width of its Main Street from four lanes to two, despite concerns from casinos and a hospital that the plan could tie the city into knots in traffic jams, scaring away gamblers. Delaying emergency vehicles.
Superior Court Judge Michael Bly rejected arguments from five casinos and a hospital that an unfinished project to narrow Atlantic Avenue in the name of pedestrian safety could cause irreparable harm if allowed to be completed.
The judge said no one has been hurt so far because of the project, which began last month, during the resort’s slowest period of the year. He added that if opponents of the plan ultimately prevail in court, the road could simply be remapped and returned to how it was before.
“The court does not consider personal inconvenience to residents and visitors to be irreparable harm,” he said.
Mayor Marty Small said the city has received $24 million in federal and state funding that will pay for newly paved roads and sidewalks, new street lights and synchronized traffic signals.
“This is $24 million of non-Atlantic City taxpayer money for the citizens of Atlantic City,” he said.
At a press conference in December, city officials said the money came with a requirement that it be used for pedestrian safety measures such as a road narrowing project.
Attorney Keith Davis represents Caesars, Tropicana, Resorts, Bally’s, Hard Rock casinos and AtlantiCare Hospital in Atlantic City. He said the city has no legal authority to change traffic flows on the street, which is part of the city’s tourist district.
Authority over that vast swath of the city was ceded to a state agency, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, under a 2011 state law.
But the judge noted that the agency, commonly referred to as CRDA, was not part of the lawsuit and did not appear in court.
Even with two lanes in each direction, the main road through Atlantic City can be choked with traffic, especially on days when one or more large concerts are in town.
The New Jersey Casino Association, the trade group for the city’s casinos, wanted a judge to block the plan.
“Atlantic City Boardwalk Casino Properties and AtlantiCare are disappointed with today’s ruling,” said Mark Giannantonio, president of the association and resort casino. “We firmly believe that this change in traffic patterns on Atlantic Avenue could have very real impacts on public health, safety and general welfare.”
The judge set a trial date for February 2025. But Small noted that work on the second phase of the project is scheduled to begin in September and should be completed well before any trial.