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Feb 01, 2017

Route 537 Reopens Through Fort Monmouth

By Lori Draz

The chilly overcast morning of January 17 did little to keep away a crowd of dignitaries and media. They all came to witness the official opening of Route 537 through the former Fort Monmouth property. The road connects State Highway 35 (Main Street) in Eatontown to Oceanport Avenue (County Route 11) in Oceanport. The road has been closed since the base was shut down in 2011.

Everyone was proud of the tremendous progress being made to repopulate the former fort, and perhaps none were prouder than Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry, who serves as the freeholder representative on the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) board. The revitalization has been her top priority and passion. Wearing a lovely black fur-trimmed dress, she applauded this next important step in the progression, stating that the opening of the road will allow people to see the changes as well as ease traffic between Eatontown and Oceanport. “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,” she said.

Freeholder Tom Arnone reminded the crowd of the positive effects the revitalization would have on ratables and taxes in the entire county, along with jobs and income for surrounding businesses. James V. Gorman, chair of FMERA, acknowledged the incredible amount of work involved in getting to this point and thanked the team, from the government officials to the DPW workers, for their tireless efforts. To prepare for the opening, Monmouth County Public Works and Engineering personnel installed temporary fencing, new signage, and repaired traffic signals. They also upgraded drainage system repairs and realigned and repaved sections of the road. The approximately two-mile connector thoroughfare will be maintained by Monmouth County.

Senator Jennifer Beck made the final comments and called the group of officials together to cut the ribbon, and then all in attendance drove the route like a parade, with a beaming Mrs. Burry leading the way.

The “Johnson Gate” arches at the Highway 35 Eatontown entrance have been repaired and cleaned. The Eatontown section of Route 537, referred to as Avenue of Memories, is lined with monuments and trees placed in memory of U.S. Army Signal Corps soldiers killed in action during foreign wars. There is video surveillance along the entire corridor, which will be patrolled by the Oceanport and Eatontown police departments with assistance from the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.

FMERA’s goal is to develop 1,585 housing units; 300,000 square feet of non-profit, civic, government, and educational space; 500,000 square feet for retail; and two million square feet dedicated to offices, research, and commercial uses.