Limited Daytime Causeway Lane Closures Likely This Summer

State Says Will Speed Conclusion of Entire Project
May 23, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Contractors for the state Department of Transportation want to close lanes on the Causeway during the daytime this summer as part of the $350 million rehabilitation and expansion project for the only access on and off Long Beach Island.

Contractor GHC is seeking permission to close one lane on Route 72 westbound two days a week during the months of June, July and August, weather permitting, according to an email correspondence from Jeff A. Bassano, resident engineer for contracts three and four. The closure would impact the old Causeway bridge.

“The reason for this request is to pour deck concrete for the new Causeway Bridge that will result in the new bridge opening ahead of schedule,” Bassano wrote May 18.

Additionally, contractor SCC is looking to close one lane of Route 72 eastbound from Tuesday, May 29, through Tuesday, June 5, and on westbound from June 5 through June 12, according to the email.

“The reason for this request is the proposed work for this operation is noisy and could echo across the bay during the overnight,” Bassano wrote.

Should traffic be excessively impacted by either proposed lane closures, the work would revert to the nighttime hours from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., he said.

“The bridge will be done a lot faster,” remarked Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsenbeck. However, he added, “Our experience when they poured concrete during the day is a tremendous backlog westbound.”

As the gateway community to LBI, Ship Bottom funnels all traffic on and off the Island. Any lane closure on the Causeway is bound to impact safe access on and off the barrier island. In November, a road-repaving project in Stafford Township caused bottleneck traffic jams for a two-day period in the week before Thanksgiving. The effects were felt on the Island, down both sides of Long Beach Boulevard as well as Central and Barnegat avenues, and other streets in the area.

Epic traffic congestion, vehicles blocking intersections, cars going the wrong way down one-way streets, and careless driving were just some of the problems police in Ship Bottom and Stafford Township contended with last summer when a five-car accident shut one lane eastbound on the Causeway. To beat the traffic getting onto the Island, some motorists took to driving on the shoulder of Route 72 to reach Jennings Road and take the Beach Haven West route to the base of the Causeway. There was no relief to be found there, and instead some motorists drove on the wrong side of the road to bypass cars as they waited to turn right on Mill Creek Road.

In related Causeway news, sections of the pedestrian walkway across the Causeway are open, but the walkway in its entirety isn’t expected to be finished until later this year, according to Dan Triana, public information officer state Department of Transportation.

“Sidewalks are open from east to west along Route 72 westbound from West Eight Street (Ship Bottom), across Bonnet Island to the western abutment of the West Thorofare Bridge,” he said on May 21. “What remains closed is a section of the sidewalk that runs along the bulkhead of the West Thorofare Bridge and underneath the west side of the abutment and ties into the multipurpose walkway.”

That walkway, he said, runs underneath to Route 72 eastbound.

“Currently, there is work to stabilize the berms in these areas,” Triana said. “Once stabilized, the sidewalks and handrail installations will be completed. The majority of the work is expected to be completed this summer.”

He said minor off line work will continue into the fall, but it’s expected to compromise sidewalk access.

“While the sidewalks are closed, the temporary shuttle bus will provide access to pedestrians,” Triana said, noting sidewalks are also planned along Eighth and Ninth streets, Barnegat Avenue, Central Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard in Ship Bottom as part of the pedestrian safety improvements and connectivity for the Island during the final phase of the project.

The rehabbed Causeway bridge will have 13-foot lanes and a 13-foot outside shoulder for bicyclists, he said. There is a six-foot outside shoulder for bicyclists on the East and West thorofares, Triana said. Construction is currently underway on the Hilliards Thorofare for bike accessibility.

“A 10-foot multi-use walkway constructed on Cedar Bonnet Island to the west of the West Thorofare Bridge will accommodate both pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” he said.

The Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges temporary shuttle bus schedule is currently active and will continue to operate until the sidewalks on the old Causeway Bridge and the Hilliards Thorofare Bridge are open, according to Triana. The shuttle is expected to remain operational throughout 2018.

Work on the Causeway is being performed in separate construction contracts. The rehabilitation of the East and West thorofare bridges includes a new riding surface, new deck joints, substructure repairs, scour protection, pile reinforcement, bulkhead repairs, fender system repairs, drainage improvements and a center median barrier on Route 72, Triana said. Steel sheeting remains to stabilize the slopes before the sidewalks can be competed behind new rails and new bridge lighting.

Construction for the work began in 2015. Most of the work is expected to be completed by this fall.

Rehabbing of the existing bay bridge, Hilliards Thorofare Bridge and the new bulkheads began in December 2016, and are slated for completion this summer, he said. On the old Causeway Bridge all bridge beams have been installed. Reinforcement steel installation is ongoing, with several sections of the new bridge deck concrete already poured.

“The deck work will continue throughout the summer, but no effect on traffic as this bridge is closed,” he said. “Scour protection has started and should conclude in winter 2018. Some sidewalk and drainage upgrades along Route 72 westbound have been installed as well.”

On Hilliard’s Thorofare Bridge, the Route 72 westbound section of the bridge has a new driving surface, along with new deck joints, he said. Construction of a new center median barrier is planned to start over the summer, with the remaining Route 72 eastbound work resuming in the fall.

The precise timing of the work is subject to change due to weather or other factors. Motorists are encouraged to check NJDOT’s traffic information website for construction updates and real-time travel information; for NJDOT news, follow on Twitter @NJDOT_info.

— Gina G. Scala

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