By Dan Moffett
Manalapan officials were just about ready to break into a round of high-fives in August when it appeared the Florida Department of Transportation was finally approving a flashing warning sign for the troublesome S-curve on the 1500 block of State Road A1A, a little more than a mile south of Town Hall.
But not so fast. Remember, the FDOT approval process is always a long and winding road.
Days after state officials indicated they were satisfied, they abruptly changed course and said more research is needed.
“There was a report done, and we were told it was going to move forward and move up the chain at FDOT,” Town Manager Linda Stumpf said last month. “Then we were told, ‘Oops. Oops. No, we’re going to do another study.’’’
For more than a decade, Manalapan has been trying to persuade the state to address the high accident rate at the Chillingworth Curve, sometimes known as the Bentley Curve for the luxury vehicles that have met their demise there.
Former Police Chief Clay Walker petitioned the FDOT for help in 2009. Current Police Chief Carmen Mattox has been working with the agency for most of the past year.
State officials last month told Mattox they want to collect more speed data before moving forward. They also said they were concerned that the flashing lights might annoy residents at the curve.
Studies already completed show at least 17 crashes have occurred there since 2012, most of them at night.
Stumpf said the town is committed to working with the state to find ways to cut the accident rate at the curve.
“We’ll keep pushing,” she said. “This is a safety issue. We’re not happy it’s been halted.”
In other business, the Town Commission gave final approval to an ordinance that updates the building rules for the Plaza del Mar area, Manalapan’s only commercial zone.
With the new ordinance, the commission lifts the construction moratorium that has been in place since last year.
At least one business owner has been waiting for the moratorium to end. Sandra Foschi plans to move forward with renovations to the former BB&T building at the northeast corner of the plaza.
Foschi hopes to turn the property, which she bought in April for $1.6 million, into a health and wellness center that offers sports medicine, yoga and nutritional support.