Atlantic City Road Diet to Proceed, Judge Finds No ‘Irreparable Harm’

Posted on: January 27, 2024, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: January 29, 2024, 11:59h.

The narrowing of Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City will continue. A state judge ruled the casino plaintiffs who asked the court to halt the project failed to prove irreparable harm.

Atlantic City road narrowing lawsuit
Atlantic City’s Atlantic Avenue at Caesars. The narrowing of Atlantic Ave. will proceed after a New Jersey judge dismissed arguments against the project raised by five casinos on the Boardwalk. (Image: AP)

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Blee on Friday dismissed an injunction request from five Boardwalk casinos and a local health care system. The plaintiffs argued that reducing the number of vehicular lanes on Atlantic Ave. from four to two would further increase traffic congestion — an unappealing sight for arriving casino guests — and could delay emergency vehicles trying to reach AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center to provide life-saving services.

The court does not consider the personal inconvenience of residents and visitors to be irreparable harm,” Blee wrote.

Atlantic City officials, including Mayor Marty Small Sr., believe narrowing the city’s main drag in a “road diet” will improve pedestrian safety. Nearly 10% of the more than 800 vehicle accidents on Atlantic Ave. between 2013 and 2017 involved a pedestrian.

By reducing the number of vehicular lanes from four to two, Atlantic Ave.’s sidewalks will be widened to facilitate easier walking and prevent pedestrians from stepping onto the road to get around slower people.

Trial Scheduled

Bally’s, Caesars, Hard Rock, Resorts, and Tropicana argue a more congested Atlantic Ave. will further dampen the arrival experience for its guests.

The Atlantic City Expressway arrives at Baltic Ave. and Christopher Columbus Blvd. Guests continue straight to Caesars or make a left or right on Atlantic Ave. to reach their casino destination.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk casino properties and AtlantiCare are disappointed in today’s ruling,” said Mark Giannantonio, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and Resorts Casino Hotel. “We stand firm in our belief that this change in traffic patterns on Atlantic Avenue could have very real public health, safety, and general welfare implications.”

Even with four lanes, Atlantic Ave. becomes extremely busy during summer, with marquee events and concerts.

Ocean Casino Resort, the northernmost gaming property on the Boardwalk, and the three Marina District casinos — Borgata, Harrah’s, and Golden Nugget — are not participating in the road diet litigation.

The case will head to a full trial but likely won’t be heard until February 2025. The road-narrowing project is expected to be finished by this spring. The project began last month and is already about half complete.

Blee says if the trial goes the plaintiffs’ way, Atlantic Ave. can be marked to return the roadway to four lanes.

Casino Foe, Not Friend

The casinos and AtlantiCare argued that the road narrowing needed approval from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA), which has jurisdiction over the city’s Tourism District where Atlantic Ave. is being trimmed. The city argued, and Blee agreed, that the state holds final authority and CRDA did not participate in the lawsuit.

Blee’s ruling is his latest decision against the Atlantic City casino industry. In 2022, Blee overturned a deal reached between New Jersey lawmakers and the casinos that sought to significantly reduce the amount of money they pay under their PILOT (payment in lieu of tax) program.

Blee said the state’s willingness to remove iGaming and online sports betting revenue from the calculation determining how much property tax the casinos collectively pay violated the state constitution. That’s because it provided a tax benefit to an industry without a “public purpose.”