By Rich Zeoli

BELMAR, NJ (CBS) — The Mayor of Belmar, New Jersey defended his decision to close off traffic entering the town yesterday afternoon after gridlock overwhelmed their roads from visitors hoping to attend the their annual seafood festival or lounge on the beach.

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Mayor Matt Doherty explained to Rich Zeoli on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT that the town’s streets were beyond capacity and the only solution was to keep out new traffic for a few hours.

 

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“Our beaches were maxed out so when we looked around, we talked with our police department about the public safety issues regarding vehicular traffic on our streets, we came to the conclusion that we literally could not take on anymore cars into the streets of Belmar. The ones that were here were bumper to bumper and weren’t moving. We decided to close the town down to cars. People could still walk in, still ride their bikes. It wasn’t the number of people, it was the number of cars on the streets that were the causing an issue. From 3:00 to 7:00, we prohibited any new cars coming on to the streets of Belmar.”

He stated that the decision actually saved a lot of people time and the frustration of getting locked down in a traffic jam.

“It was based solely on the recommendation of the police department and the tipping point as to when they believe they’re not able to get emergency vehicles down the streets. It wasn’t simply cars parked on the side, it was cars in the middle of roads that weren’t moving. Once we knew that was going to occur, we wanted to preempt any public safety hazards from occurring. If you did come with your family, I would also tell you rest assured, if you came after 3:00, it wasn’t worth coming. We did you a favor by keeping you out of town and keeping you going either north or south. You would’ve had a miserable time in town anyway. You wouldn’t have found parking. You would’ve been stuck in a massive traffic jam for, maybe, four hours with your family on a hot Sunday afternoon. It wouldn’t have been enjoyable anyway.”

Doherty insisted he, and other city planners, will take the adequate steps to ensure a similar incident does not coincide with next year’s seafood festival.

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“We didn’t expect nearly the number of people that we had. We just never did. We never had anything like that before. It was completely unprecedented. The short term fix was to shut things down for four hours, let the traffic subside and then move forward. For next year, we’re going to plan differently and take this traffic issue into account so we don’t have a return to the same issue we had this weekend.”