Spring Completion Date Targeted for Bridge Walkway

Feb 21, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Pedestrian sidewalks that will connect to the south side of Route 72 as part of the $350 million Route 72/Manahawkin Bridge project are currently under construction, and are expected to be completed in the spring, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The sidewalks will be provided underneath the East Thorofare Bridge, said Dan Triana, DOT public information officer.

“In addition, the project will improve pedestrian and bicycle access for both commuting and recreational activities by providing a contiguous path between the mainland and Long Beach Island along the north side of Route 72,” he said. “Pedestrian sidewalks will be provided along 8th Street and 9th Street, 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.”

Enhancements for bicycle compatibility constructed to date include a six-foot wide outside shoulder to accommodate bicyclists on the East Thorofare and West Thorofare bridges, Triana said.

The Hilliards Thorofare is currently under construction and will offer the same bicycle accessibility, he added.

“The rehabilitated Manahawkin Bay Bridge will have a 13-foot outside shoulder to facilitate bicyclists,” Triana said. “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.”

Additionally, the circle at the Route 72 terminus in Ship Bottom will be reconfigured as a square once the DOT completes the bridge project. The future site of The Arlington Beach Club is to be squared off to make room for the traffic flow changes on all four roadways surrounding the site, according to Triana. The DOT’s proposed improvements in Ship Bottom include converting a section of Long Beach Boulevard into a two-way road at the future site of The Arlington Beach Club, he said.

“Long Beach Boulevard is currently one-way northbound between Eighth and Ninth streets,” Triana said, noting the improvements would provide southbound traffic with a more direct route to areas south of Route 72. “As a result of the new design, a new traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Eighth and Ninth streets and the Boulevard.”

Central Avenue, the one-way road southbound between Third and Eleventh streets in Ship Bottom, is also expected to be reconfigured, Triana said. This section of the road would be converted to allow for two-way traffic, he said.

Left turns at Central Avenue will be prohibited at the intersection with Eighth and Ninth streets, he said. Other roadway improvements include widening the road along Eighth and Ninth streets by 13 feet to accommodate an additional lane of traffic, a 3-foot wider inside shoulder and a new, 8-foot wide shoulder, according to Triana.

“Similarly, Ninth Street will be widened 6 feet to accommodate a wider 3-foot inside shoulder and a 12-foot far right travel lane,” he said, “and a new 4-foot bike lane.”

In February 2017, the DOT announced plans to create a new drainage system of underground gravity flow pipes along Eighth and Ninth streets from the Boulevard to the bay. It will help improve driving conditions during heavy rainfalls and during flooding. The new system will direct runoff to two new, separate outfall locations on the north and south sides of the East Thorofare Bridge, according to the DOT.

In the end, the Causeway, a three-mile stretch connecting the mainland, Stafford Township, to Long Beach Island, will entail one big bridge to carry traffic west, or off the Island, and another bridge to flow eastward. The new bridge, south of the old one, is 2,400 feet long with a vertical clearance of 55 feet above Manahawkin Bay. The bridge project, which began construction in 2013, is being done through separate contracts to expedite design and construction, he said.

The current traffic pattern, which has been in place since the fall, is expected to last until spring, when it will shift to accommodate the next phase of the project. Construction for the entire project and the completed bicycle and pedestrian improvements is currently scheduled for the end of 2021, he said. That is slightly ahead of schedule, however the exact ending date of the extensive project will come down to weather and other outside influences.

Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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