County to Undertake Morris Boulevard Bridge Replacement in 2019

Oct 10, 2018

The Morris Boulevard bridge leading from Beach Haven West to just above the base of the Causeway to Long Beach Island is going to be replaced, and despite a recent community push to get the work done, it’s been in the pipes for more than a year.

“We’re at the point to send it out to bid,” John Ernst, Ocean County engineer, said recently. “It’s been in the design phase for more than a year now.”

The project is slated to go out to bid either this year or early in the new year with a fall 2019 start date, according to Ernst. Proposed plans call for expanding the width of the bridge and matching or raising the under clearance, he said.

Expanding the width of the bridge falls to the rights-of-way and doesn’t necessitate purchasing land from area homeowners or eminent domain, according to Ernst.

He said his department sets its sights on bridges throughout the county for possible repair or replacement annually and this project has been on that list for several years. The projects are generally funded, at least partially, through monies from the state transportation fund, which the uptick in the state gas tax helps to endow.

The county has earmarked roughly $1.6 million from the fund for the work to replace the Morris Boulevard bridge. All of the permits for the work have been secured, Ernst said.

“It’s in the large bridge category even though it’s a small bridge,” the engineer said, noting his department is responsible for 225 bridges throughout the county from culvert pipe bridges all the way up to the Mantoloking Bridge in size.

Ernst said he and Freeholder John Kelly both received a recent email from Beach Haven West resident George F. Wagner inquiring about having the bridge, built more than four decades ago, replaced.

“The issue with the bridge is that there is an opportunity for community input to ensure the design not only meets the motoring public needs but the boating community as well,” Wagner said earlier this week. “The bridge is too narrow and too low and creates a navigational hazard.”

Wagner, who is spearheading a social media campaign to have the bridge replaced, said boats have a difficult time exiting the area during adverse weather events and returning home to dock because of the bridge.

“Our goal is for community input to ensure the county designs a bridge that meets these present needs and also the future needs due to rising sea levels,” he said. “Building a bridge without that consideration is very short sighted and will put us back into the same position we are now with a height-restricted bridge in the future.”

A public information meeting on the issue is slated to be scheduled, according to Ernst. Stafford Township officials have offered to help facilitate getting that done, he said.

— Gina G. Scala

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