Ocean County Engineers Look Again at Morris Boulevard Bridge Redesign

Jan 09, 2019

Some Beach Haven West residents and boaters are claiming victory as Ocean County Freeholder John C. Kelly directed the county engineering department back to the drawing board when it comes to the redesign and replacement of the Morris Boulevard bridge in that section of Stafford Township. In a statement released Monday, John N. Ernst, county engineer, said the freeholder instructed the engineering department “to further investigate the roadway profile of Morris Boulevard to allow for the replacement bridge to provide under-clearance consistent with the under-clearance at the Marsha Drive bridge.”

Both bridges egress from the lagoon community to Route 72, although the Marsha Drive bridge is also an ingress into the waterfront area.

All of this comes after a Dec. 13 informational session in Stafford Township where Ernst presented his department’s plans for replacing the current bridge, located just above the beginning of the Causeway to Long Beach Island. Built in 1955, the bridge is currently 20 feet wide with an under-clearance of 7 feet.

The proposed replacement bridge is slated for a combined width of 40 feet and an under-clearance of 8 feet at mean high tide, according to Ernst. It was designed in 2009, three years prior to Superstorm Sandy. The bridge at Marsha Drive has an under-clearance of 9 feet and is about 40 feet wide.

Unhappy with the explanation that the Morris Boulevard bridge could be raised only so high because of the vertical profile of the township-owned road and its 25-mph speed limit, opponents of the 2009 redesign began an email campaign to garner support for exploring other designs for the bridge.

Requests for comment from the freeholder on the project had gone unanswered as of press time, but Ernst did say his department would be presenting its findings to the county board sometime in the next few weeks. The next regular scheduled meeting of the freeholders is at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

Initially, the project was expected to go out to bid early this year with a fall time frame for construction to begin. Whether that is still the case remains to be seen. What is also unclear is whether the $1.6 million earmarked from the state transportation fund would still be available if the project is pushed until next year or farther out.

All of the permits for the work have been secured, he said. If the money isn’t used in 2019, it’s possible the county would lose the funding for the project.

What is also unclear is whether replacing the Morris Boulevard bridge would have any impact on the $312 million federally funded Causeway Bridge rehabilitation and expansion project currently underway. Request for comment from the state Department of Transportation had been unanswered as of press time. The Causeway project to build a new bridge parallel to the existing one over the Manahawkin Bay began in 2013. Its main goal is to provide the safety of a redundant route on and off Long Beach Island. The new bridge is 2,400 feet long with a vertical clearance of 55 feet over Manahawkin Bay. Ultimately, it will function as the bridge for eastbound traffic once the project is completed, with the rehabilitated original bridge carrying westbound traffic.

— Gina G. Scala

gscala@thesandpaper.net

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