When Revel throws open its doors in April as Atlantic City’s newest casino, it is taking a risk: Can patrons find their way down to the South Inlet, a neighborhood historically ignored by the resort’s casino boom because of its inaccessibility?
Or will the new multimillion-dollar thoroughfare that reconfigures the city’s streets and the new “Revel Beach” signs that dot it be enough to entice customers?
The $42 million South Inlet Transportation Improvement Project, when finished in April, will leave a widened boulevard leading into Revel. Starting at Absecon Boulevard, drivers following the new Revel Beach signs will be directed to the newly widened Melrose Avenue, and then Connecticut Avenue. That’s the main entrance, unofficially “Revel Boulevard.”
Massachusetts Avenue, the main way out, also will be improved.
While overseen by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the project was underwritten by the South Jersey Transportation Authority, with one-third of the eventual funding coming from the state Department of Transportation.
The undertaking is the largest in the city since the $330 million Atlantic City Expressway Connector opened in 2001. That project made it easier to get to the Marina District and led to the development of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa two years later.
The project “allows for the anticipated increase in traffic to be able to access that part of the city in a consistent manner,” CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said. The road likely will have to handle well in excess of 10,000 drivers per day when it opens.
Revel also is expected to increase traffic along the White Horse Pike onto Absecon Boulevard and into the South Inlet.
State traffic counts have not been updated since May 2007, but figures from then show 27,151 vehicles on average used the Atlantic City Expressway on a given day.
Similarly, a 48-hour traffic study conducted on Absecon Boulevard between Pennsylvania and Virginia avenues in late January 2011 found the road accommodated about 9,800 cars per day.
Keith Mills, the resort’s planner, said the advance roadway planning would pay off.
In one example, the tangled intersection of Delaware, Melrose and Mediterranean avenues with Absecon Boulevard will be simplified for casino traffic. Delaware Avenue north and Mediterranean Avenue west of the intersection will be closed at the intersection, Mills said.
If they were not closed off, Mills said, with the arrival of Revel those local roads would “bog down to a much more intense intersection.”
Revel officials, preparing for their opening this spring, would not respond to questions it asked be submitted in writing. Executives there previously had supported the project.
Tom Woodruff, president of the Atlantic City Jitney Association, said it is tough to tell before the casino opens, but he said the new roads “certainly look good.”
He said the planning likely would alleviate a bottleneck during weekends and special events in front of the Showboat Casino Hotel.
In a new move, the resort’s iconic jitneys will pick up and deliver passengers at the porte cochere.
Elsewhere in the resort, casino visitors who want to ride the small buses must wait outdoors. The move was at the casino’s suggestion, association Vice President John Lanfranchi said.
Both he and Woodruff approached the topic cautiously.
“I think it’s going to make it somewhat challenging, but I don’t think it’s going to be difficult,” Lanfranchi said, while Woodruff said “it’s new territory for us and we are willing to try anything.”
However, some taxicab interests said they were concerned this shut them out.
Paul Rosenberg, president of the Yellow Cab Co., which controls many of the city cab licenses, said casinos would have to line up in the garage off New Jersey Avenue, halfway between the Boardwalk and Oriental Avenue, and wait to be signaled by staff at the porte cochere.
He was concerned that could hinder cabs. If there were a major event, he said, cabs afterward would have to turn across as many as 2,000 cars exiting the garage roadway.
“There’s a potential to be a five- to 10-minute wait for a taxicab,” he said.
Woodruff said he did not want a fight with the cabs. “We are not trying to infringe on their territory.”