Bridge Traffic Pattern Change Signals Summer’s End

Sep 06, 2017
Photo by: Grant Kelly

Even before the holiday weekend snuck up and unofficially put an end to summer, the state Department of Transportation posted electronic signs along Route 72 warning of a shift in traffic patterns beginning Sept. 6 for eastbound motorists coming onto Long Beach Island and Sept. 7 for those leaving the Island.

The work is part of the $350 million Route 72/Manahawkin Bay bridge project, and Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsenbeck said some phases are ahead of schedule. The target completion date for the entire undertaking is spring 2020, but the exact ending date of the extensive project will come down to weather and other outside influences. In the end, the 3-mile stretch connecting the mainland, Stafford Township, to Long Beach Island will entail one bridge to carry traffic west, or off the Island, and another bridge to flow eastward. The new bridge is 2,400 feet long with a vertical clearance of 55 feet above the Manahawkin Bay.

The finished project will also include bicycle lanes, including wider outside shoulders on the twin Manahawkin Bay bridges, and 6-foot bike lanes on the trestle bridges.

“It’s going to be completely restored,” Huelsenbeck said of the bike path, as well as the pedestrian walkway that dips underneath the bridges and was a pet project of his back in the mid-1990s. It was built with a $25,000 Community Development Block Grant, he said. “They’re fixing it so it’s less maintenance.”

The new configuration will allow bicyclists to come off the bridge by the Ship Bottom boat ramp and head north to Surf City without crossing traffic on Eighth or Ninth streets, which are the gateway entrance and exit to the Island, the mayor said. Guardrails will also block bicyclists from entering traffic lanes on the bridges, he added.

Additionally, the bridge project includes intersection enhancements in the borough, Huelsenbeck said. The upgrades are designed to augment traffic flow for north- and southbound traffic on Long Beach Boulevard, and along Eighth and Ninth streets, he said.

In February, the state Department of Transportation announced plans to create a new drainage system of underground gravity flow pipes along Eight and Ninth streets from the Boulevard to the bay. It will help improve access during heavy rainfalls and during flooding. The new system will direct run-off to two new, separate outfall locations on the north and south sides of the East Thorofare Bridge, according to the DOT.

Just last month, Dan Triana, state Department of Transportation public information officer, said the contractors were prepping to begin installation of the new drainage pipe. A new drainage line at the end of Third Street in Ship Bottom will be positioned to help alleviate some of the flooding that occurs in the area after heavy rains, he said.

Tentatively slated for this month is work on installing new retaining walls, necessary to stabilize some of the adjacent areas around the bridge, according to Triana.

Gina G. Scala

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