Less than two months after Monmouth County financed the purchase of the remaining available acreage of Fort Monmouth, thereby removing federal red tape from the redevelopment decisions of the property, the gates were removed from the entrances on Route 35 in Eatontown and Oceanport Ave in Oceanport as County Road 537 opened for vehicular traffic.
County, state and local officials gathered at the fort on Tuesday morning to commemorate the reopening.
“Government usually doesn’t work this fast. In Monmouth County it does,” declared Freeholder Tom Arnone as he acknowledged the men and women of the County Department of Public Works and Engineering and their director, John Tobia, for their work in opening the road.
The road was closed to the public in 2011 when the U.S. Army moved the operations of the fort to Aberdeen, Maryland following the 2005 decision by the federal BRAC (base realignment and closure) commission decision to close the historic facility.
“Since 2005, I’ve been involved with the Fort Monmouth revitalization efforts and this is a positive next step in the planned redevelopment of Fort Monmouth, an initiative which will greatly impact the quality of life and overall living standard for all County residents,” said Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry, who serves as the County freeholder representative on the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) board. “In addition, the opening will ease traffic congestion between Eatontown and Oceanport, another welcome benefit for our residents.”
Temporary fencing and new signage were installed and the road was brought up to County specifications with drainage system repairs and improvements, realigned, reconfigured and repaved sections of the road. The road will be maintained by the County and patrolled by the Oceanport and Eatontown police departments with assistance from the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office. There is video surveillance along the entire corridor.
Along the Eatontown section of County Route 537, referred to as Avenue of Memories, existing monuments and the “Johnson Gate” arches at the State Highway 35 entrance have been repaired and cleaned. Avenue of Memories is named for the monuments and trees placed in memory of U.S. Army Signal Corps soldiers killed in action during foreign wars.
“I would like to express my personal appreciation to Monmouth County for the focus and attention paid by everyone involved with this project to reopen this roadway to the public and especially to the residents of Monmouth County,” said James V. Gorman, Chair, Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority.
Freeholder Serena DiMaso, liaison to the Monmouth County Improvement Authority, said, “We are excited about this crucial step in the revitalization of Fort Monmouth. Financing through the Monmouth County Improvement Authority coupled with the County’s AAA bond rating, made this this project possible.”
FMERA’s goal is to develop 1,585 housing units; 300,000 square feet of non-profit, civic and government and educational space; 500,000 square feet for retail; and 2 million square feet dedicated to offices, research and commercial uses.
“Extending County Route 537 will alleviate traffic congestion on area roadways, and allow all to see the potential development and business opportunities that the former Fort now affords,” said Arnone.