ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City got a green light Friday to proceed with a project to reduce the width of its main street from four lanes to two, despite fears from casinos and a hospital that the plan could tie the city into gridlocked knots, scare away gamblers and delay emergency vehicles.
Superior Court Judge Michael Blee rejected arguments from five casinos and a hospital that the half-finished 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 yet been hurt by 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 can simply be restriped and put back the way it used to be.
“The court does not consider the personal inconvenience of residents and visitors to be irreparable harm,” he said.
Mayor Marty Small said the city received $24 million in federal and state funding that will pay for newly paved roads and sidewalks, and new street lights and synchronized traffic lights.
“That's $24 million in non-Atlantic City taxpayer money for the citizens of Atlantic City,” he said.
At a news conference in December, city officials said the money came with the requirement that it be used on pedestrian safety measures such as the road narrowing project.
Attorney Keith Davis represents the Caesars, Tropicana, Resorts, Bally's and Hard Rock casinos, and the AtlantiCare hospital in Atlantic City. He argued that the city has no legal authority to alter traffic flows on the street, which is part of the city's Tourism District.
Authority over that vast area 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 litigation and did not appear in court.
Even with two lanes in each direction, the main road through Atlantic City can be choked with traffic, particularly on days when one or more big concerts are in town.
The Casino Association of New Jersey, the trade group for the city's casinos, wanted the judge to block the plan.
“The Atlantic City Boardwalk casino properties and AtlantiCare are disappointed in today’s ruling," said Mark Giannantonio, president of the association and of Resorts casino. "We stand firm in our belief that this change in traffic patterns on Atlantic Avenue could have very real public health, safety and general welfare implications.”
The judge has scheduled a trial for February 2025. But Small noted that work on phase two of the project is due to begin in September, and should be completed long before any trial.
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