Redesigning Morris Boulevard Bridge Has Complications

To Raise for Boaters, Widen for Autos
Jan 16, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Redesigning the Morris Boulevard bridge in Beach Haven West so it matches the size and scope of the bridge at Marsha Drive a mile to the west might not be as simple as putting pencil and eraser to paper, as some on social media believe. That won’t stop the Ocean County Engineering Department from trying.

Yet Ocean County Engineer John Ernst said expanding and raising the road in front of homes in that area could create some issues.

“We’re looking at that and will have some answers (soon),” he said, noting his department is moving ahead in hopes of finding a solution that will not encroach on homeowners in the area and still provide many Beach Haven West residents and boaters with a bridge that meets their needs. “The original intent was to improve the under clearance (for boaters) and restrict improvements to the road.”

The proposed replacement of the bridge, designed since 2009, calls for expanding it to a width of 40 feet with an under-clearance of 8 feet. The bridge, built in 1955, is currently 20 feet wide with an under-clearance of 7 feet.

Ernst said his department is looking to see how, or if, 1 foot of under-clearance can be gained so the replacement resembles that of the one on Marsha Drive, which has an under-clearance of 9 feet and is 40 feet wide. To do so, the scope of the project may include changing the road profile, according to Ernst.

Morris Boulevard is a Stafford Township roadway. As such, the speed limit is 25 mph. That was part of the consideration of how high and how wide the current Morris Boulevard bridge replacement could go, Ernst has said.

One of the things the county will take a look at is funding for redesigning and rebuilding the bridge. Currently, there is $1.6 million earmarked for replacing the Morris Boulevard bridge. The funds are from the state Department of Transportation Trust Fund.

“We normally get around a million dollars,” Ernst said, noting the hike in the state gas tax allowed additional funding for the project.

The engineer said his department does have money available to offset additional costs, depending on what those costs look like. The Morris Boulevard project was slated to go out to bid early this year, with a fall time frame for construction to begin. Whether that is still the case is unclear.

Ernst said his department would present their findings and plans to the Ocean County Board of Freeholders in the next few weeks.

State transportation officials have not responded to numerous requests for comment on whether replacing the Morris Boulevard bridge would have any impact on the $312 million federally funded Causeway Bridge rehabilitation and expansion project currently underway. That project to build a new bridge parallel to the existing one over 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 be used exclusively 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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