EATONTOWN: For the first time since it was closed to the public in 2001, Fort Monmouth is once again open to all traffic.
"I'd like to call this occasion one giant step forward," Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry said during a grand opening ceremony at the Johnson Gate on Tuesday morning, Jan. 17.
County, local and Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) officials were all on hand for the ceremony which officially marked the opening of County Route 537 through the former Fort Monmouth property, which closed in 2011. The road connects State Highway 35 (Main Street) in Eatontown to Oceanport Avenue in Oceanport.
FMERA Chairman James Gorman said the road was able to be opened thanks to the hard work of all involved and said it will help "accelerate the economic recovery of our local communities."
The county has been working for the last few months to prepare the road for vehicular use by installing temporary fencing, adding new signage and repairing traffic signals. The county also made drainage system repairs and improvements, realigned, reconfigured and repaved sections of the road. 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. Trees have also been placed along the road in memory of the U.S. Army Signal Corps soldiers killed in action during foreign wars.
Video surveillance is now in place along the entire corridor and a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit has been put in place. The road will be patrolled by the Oceanport and Eatontown police departments with assistance from the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office.
"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," Freeholder Thomas Arnone said.
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 of retail; and 2 million square feet dedicated to offices, research and commercial uses.