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The Shore is open for business. The highway is not

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The state has been loud and clear in announcing to the masses — many of whom may think Sandy washed away our coast — that the Shore will be open this summer, unless it isn’t.

You could forgive the mayors of coastal towns for the confusion. Route 35, that tourist turnpike that sends summer visitors into towns like Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights, creating a reliable seasonal economy, was in shambles after the storm blew through. Chris Christie announced in February he planned to invest more than $200 million in funds to repair the 12.5-mile stretch of road running from Point Pleasant Beach to Island Beach State Park.

So far, so good, right? But local officials say the timing of the project, which would begin in the summer, will essentially create a parking lot where Route 35 used to be, creating hardships for residents and local businesses. In response, the state has pointed out the amount of work involved, and how time consuming it will be, as reasons to start now and get it over with.

We want the Shore, its businesses and its economies to return just as much as the next person, and that’s going to be hard this summer if the work on Route 35 backs up all the way to the Parkway. But this particular summer is going to be a hard sell in any case, meaning it’s better to just swallow the bitter medicine now to have a real roadway in place faster.

The mayors, residents and business owners in these towns understandably want this work done yesterday. It doesn’t work like that — go ask around New Orleans, or even better, in Washington — and the gain is not going to come without a lot of pain. At least if visitors are delayed for hours by construction, they’ll see proof that the state is working to rebuild itself. If they’re forced to travel down what’s left of Route 35, they may think such work is never coming, which could keep visitors away a long time.

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