The future of a popular, incomplete route down the shore becomes a political issue

Among the issues being bandied about in this year’s U.S. Senate race in New Jersey is a topic that’s been debated for decades: finishing Route 55 to connect with the Cape May area.

David Madden
October 05, 2018 - 8:15 pm
Route 55

David Madden | KYW Newsradio

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WOODBINE, NJ (KYW Newsradio) -- Among the issues being bandied about in this year’s U.S. Senate race in New Jersey is a topic that’s been debated for decades: finishing Route 55 to connect with the Cape May area. 
    
Supporters gathered in Woodbine, calling for finishing the four lane highway that now ends in Port Elizabeth, intersecting with Route 47. Cape May County Freeholder Len Desiderio says that’s not working out well. 
    
“Four times the amount of crashes where 55 and 47 meet than any other place in the state of New Jersey,” Desiderio, who also serves as Sea Isle City’s Mayor, told KYW Newsradio. “If that’s not enough to tell you that we need to get this roadway done, I don’t know what else is.”
    
Building the last 20 miles of the original Route 55 to connect with the Garden State Parkway has been debated for decades, only to be held up by environmental and funding concerns.
    
The Parkway is the only true evacuation route out of Cape May County and Avalon Mayor Marty Pagliughi, who doubles as the county’s Emergency Management Director, says a completed Route 55 would help correct that.
    
“About 15 years ago the National Hurricane Center designated Cape May County as the sixth hardest evacuation place in the United States,” Pagliughi said. “Key West is number seven. So what does that tell you?”
    
Local officials used the event to endorse Republican Bob Hugin in his quest to replace two-term Democrat Bob Menendez in the U.S. Senate. Hugin vowed to begin the work to get federal funding to get the project completed, even though the state would have to approve it first. He also admitted he doesn’t have a plan at this point to accomplish that.
    
Menendez responded with a press release heralding his efforts to secure $1.6 billion in annual federal highway and transit funding statewide. He also criticized Hugin for his connections to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who Menendez criticized as “an abject failure” in meeting the state’s transportation needs during Christie’s 8-year term.