Stafford Green Lights Daytime Causeway Lane Closures; Final Decision Up in Air

May 30, 2018

Stafford Township officials have approved two requests by state Department of Transportation contractors for limited daytime lane closures on the Causeway, beginning this week and lasting through the summer.

Township Administrator James Moran said yesterday the township agreed to closing one lane in each direction, one direction at a time, so the contractor can drive metal sheeting into the bay. The work was expected to begin yesterday and continue through June 5 on the eastbound side of the thoroughfares. Similar work is slated to begin on the westbound side of the thoroughfares June 5 and run through June 12.

Dan Triana, DOT public information officer, said the state agency is continuing to work with local officials and the contractor to determine possible options on how best to move forward with the project this summer.

“There are many factors to be considered,” he said yesterday afternoon. “Once a determination has been made and agreed upon, we will provide an update.”

But earlier yesterday, Moran said the only alternative is to drive the sheeting at night and residents of Beach Haven West, Cedar Bonnet Island and Mallard Island would all be negatively impacted by the noise.

“It reverberates like a sonic boom,” Moran said.

In fact, he said, anyone in the vicinity of the bridge will hear the banging of the metal sheeting, which is used to stabilize the structures.

“It’s heavy duty,” Moran said of the work being done. “Large sheets of metal are being driven into the floor of the bay. It’s like driving pilings, only it’s metal.”

Stafford officials also agreed to limited daytime closures from 6 a.m. to noon on Route 72 westbound every Tuesday and Thursday, weather permitting, to pour deck concrete for the new Causeway. That work is expected to last from June through August, according to an email from the resident engineer to local officials.

“We told them we don’t think it will be a problem,” Moran said. “We gave them one week to try it out. If there is a problem, they will have to go back to doing it at night.”

Overnight closures are part of the scope of the work being done regardless of daytime lane closures, he said, noting pouring concrete during the day allows for a better finish of the product.

“I can attest to that,” Moran said, “having supervised enough road work projects.”

The work is part of the $312 million rehabilitation and expansion project of the Causeway, the only access on and off Long Beach Island.

“Our experience when they pour concrete during the day is a tremendous backlog westbound,” Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsenbeck said last week.

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.

Surf City Mayor Francis Hodgson is also concerned about lane closures on the Causeway, saying businesses have only 10 weeks to make their money.

Rehabbing of the existing bay bridge, Hilliard’s 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.

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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