Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week the start of a large-scale construction project this winter on the Jones Beach Shared Use Path, a $3.5 million rehabilitation that will significantly expand South Shore cyclists’ and pedestrians’ access to the state park. The new project will also include more than $25 million in additional infrastructure work on roadways around Jones Beach to help enhance traffic safety.
“Jones Beach is one of New York’s most beloved state parks, and this new path will connect runners, walkers and cyclists to miles of recreation and white sand on the Atlantic Ocean,” Cuomo said. “Through historic investments in our infrastructure, New York is not only modernizing roads, bridges, rail systems and airports, but improving recreational trails to help make Jones Beach and other natural treasures more accessible for everyone.”
The Jones Beach Shared Use Path runs 5.2 miles along the northbound lanes of the Wantagh State Parkway, from Cedar Creek Park, in Seaford, south to Jones Beach. It was formerly known as the Ellen Farrant Memorial Bikeway.
According to the state Department of Transportation, the new Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway, being constructed on the north side of Ocean Parkway, will connect the recently completed Jones Beach access path, at the park’s Field 5, to the Tobay Beach parking field, 3.6 miles east. When the project is completed, pedestrians and cyclists will be able to walk, run or pedal from Cedar Creek Park down through Jones Beach and on to Tobay, a total of 8.8 miles, on a safe, paved surface.
The refurbished path will be 13 feet wide, will meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will include a cable guide rail to protect users from Ocean Parkway traffic. The project also will inhanced landscaping, educational signs, informational kiosks, benches and storage for 24 bicycles at Tobay Beach.
Beach greenery and bike racks will be installed along the path, as well as traffic-control signage and lighting.
The Wantagh Parkway portion of the path is being refurbished under a contract with the DOT in conjunction with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Construction will begin this winter, and the project’s completion is slated for summer 2019, officials noted.
To maintain infrastructure and improve travel safety for residents and visitors, the DOT is continuing its work on the roadways on the way in and out of Jones Beach. Drawbridges on both the Meadowbrook State Parkway and the nearby Loop Parkway are currently undergoing a $22.5 million maintenance project that is expected to be completed in spring 2019. Crews are working on barges to replace steel on the piers, spans and frames of the bridges and upgrading the span-lock mechanisms that keep them secured. Crews are also working to improve the motor, braking and lighting system controls.
This summer, new monuments were erected on the Wantagh Parkway and the Ocean Parkway, welcoming beach-goers to Jones Beach. And according to the DOT, motorists leaving the park on the Meadowbrook Parkway will soon see a new variable-message, LED sign near the Loop Parkway, displaying crash alerts, travel times and other information. The system is part of a $3.9 million project to retrofit signs on 13 Long Island highways, which is scheduled for completion next spring.
“The start of construction on the Jones Beach Shared Use Path is essential to improving the experience of beachgoers year-round,” said State Sen. John Brooks, a Democrat from Seaford. “I commend Governor Cuomo for investing in this project to help connect residents and visitors with one of our most popular beaches.”
Residents of Wantagh and Seaford say they look forward to the new enhancements at the beach. Phil Kingsbury, of Wantagh, said he was especially excited about the new pathway. “Any opportunity to ride a bike far away from cars is always a good thing, and I’m very much for it,” he said. “It’s absolutely safer, and the construction will open up the pathway, making it wider. The new barriers will make people more comfortable, and more families will go with children on their bikes knowing there’s that protection.”
For the past four years, Kingsbury has taken part in a 24-hour bike ride at Cedar Creek Park to honor Matt Scarpati, a 19-year-old Dix Hills teen who died while riding his bike on the Jones Beach pathway in 2009. The event raises money for the Miles For Matt Foundation, an organization dedicated to education, safety and athletic projects. It also hosts soccer clinics for children and a 5K run in June. A memorial statue of Scarpati stands near the entrance of the pathway at Cedar Creek Park.
Scarpati, an avid cyclist, said he hoped the project would draw larger crowds to the beach, and to Wantagh. “There are always a huge amount of people on the pathways during the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends,” he said, “and this project will definitely reduce some of the traffic and provide better routes for cyclists.”