OCEAN PARK — It may not be the million dollar ocean view seen from Palisades Park, but residents in this neighborhood believe that the one from the Fourth Street bridge is just as picturesque, speeding cars and all.
The bridge, which crosses Ocean Park Boulevard and connects the south and north parts of the neighborhood, could soon be used as more than an overpass for cars.
City planners are considering adding a viewing deck and street furniture onto the bridge as part of a $4.5 million streetscape improvement project for Ocean Park Boulevard, allowing pedestrians to sit and look out to the ocean, which is located several blocks to the west.
Residents have been seeking a viewing platform since the topic of redoing the boulevard first came up more than a decade ago.
“The community felt it was a good opportunity to provide a restful place,” said Bob Taylor, who serves on the Ocean Park Association’s Ocean Park Boulevard Committee. “It’s something that enhances the livability, which is part of the issues and concerns that we have for this street.”
The viewing deck will also allow city planners to address a concern among Fourth Street residents who have complained about the noise that busses create when they brake and then go on, moving one of the stops onto the bridge and away from the homes.
“It wouldn’t be directly in front of the residences and it would be a cool place to wait for the bus,” Peter James, an associate city planner, said.
Residents have long complained about the layout of Ocean Park Boulevard, which was widened decades ago to accommodate the anticipated traffic from developments that were proposed — yet never realized — along the beach. The result has been a wide street — packed with residences and schools — that has attracted speeding motorists.
The City Council recently reviewed two different options for Ocean Park Boulevard, both of which would add new signalized crosswalks on Highland Avenue and Seventh Street, more pedestrian lighting, enhanced landscaping and bike lanes.
Neither option would eliminate any travel lanes from the current configuration, which is already one way in each direction.
Alternative A would include seven landscaped medians throughout the boulevard and sidewalk extensions, costing anywhere from $3.2-$4.2 million. The second alternative would have more than double the landscape center medians as the first option but far fewer sidewalk extensions, costing about $650,000 less. The latter option comes with a viewing deck, which could be constructed over the landscape median that would sit below the bridge. The second option has a wider landscaped median, James said.
“It’s a tradeoff for the community to decide if they prefer to have a wider sidewalk or prefer to have a median,” James said. “We’re trying to create at the time two opposite designs that still achieve the same goals.”
The council directed city planners to mix and match the different elements from the two options to come up with a final design. The proposal is expected to go before the Recreation and Parks Commission and Planning Commission before returning back to the council in the next few months. Construction is expected to begin in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
The viewing deck was a popular feature for residents who came to the council meeting last week.
“Put (the viewing deck) on both sides and price it out,” Mike Feinstein, a former City Councilmember and Ocean Park resident, said. “There are views going both ways.”
Taylor said that while he is in favor of the viewing deck, he would not want it to financially detract from the improvements on the boulevard.
“It’s a place where someone could sit and watch the sunset without taking the additional three or four blocks to the water,” he said.