Thursday, July 23, 2020 / by Teresa Dipeso
With one final turn of a decorative beach ball and champagne flowing on another, officials in Cape May County celebrated a $13.7 million improvement project to the main road leading into Wildwood Wednesday.
The Grand Gateway project included improvements such as raising the road to avoid flooding issues, a new stormwater pump station, a “pocket park,” widening the street, creating ADA-compliant traffic signals and the new digital billboard that displays events going on in the city.
And most notably, it came with a renaming of the Rio Grande Avenue entranceway — now dubbed Beach Ball Boulevard.
A Wildwood Tram Car filled with the event dignitaries, followed by monster trucks and classic cars, and a vehicle playing Bobby Rydell’s “Wildwood Days” went down the stretch of road to cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Reading a statement from Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton, Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, who met her husband in Wildwood 42 years ago, said the project was one of many on the horizon for the county.
“The Wildwoods are special for Cape May County. They are a special place for the state of New Jersey. That is why you see the Wildwoods names for various state and national awards as they return visitors each and every year. The new Wildwoods Grand Gateway is going to improve traffic flow, reduce flooding and create a beautiful entry into what is now an amazing destination.”
“This beautiful gateway is what you get when you have a government that knows how to work together,” said State Senator Mike Testa (R-1st District). “When you have county and city officials willing to work together, reach across the aisle, and beautify what I would argue is America’s beach.”
Funding of the project came from several sources, including a $2.25 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for the pumping station, as well as $350,000 from the Greater Wildwood Tourism and Improvement Authority, as well as funds from Cape May County, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, and the city of Wildwood itself.
“We all have our entrances, but truly this is the main artery,” Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron said of Beach Ball Boulevard.
“When you come over that bridge, it is really entertaining,” added former Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. “When you come in now, you are now entering into a really special place.”
The aforementioned Beach Ball Boulevard was the result of a contest to rename Rio Grande Avenue. The winner of the competition received Wildwood-related prizes.
from Chris Franklin at nj.com