BELMAR, NJ — Belmar officials are fighting back against the state’s latest plan to close the Main Street/Route 71 bridge for two months beginning in September for repair work.
The borough and neighboring Avon-by-the-Sea were recently notified of the project to replace the span’s guardrails and perform other maintenance work — two months after state Department of Transportation (DOT) officials came to town to further outline plans to replace the bridge in 2023. DOT officials could not be reached for comment on the newest repair project.
In response, both municipalities are expected to officially register their opposition to the new maintenance project in a joint letter, asking the DOT for additional details as to why the work is needed and why the bridge over the Shark River needs to be closed for two months.
“I don’t see why they want to spend money to repair the bridge when it’s going to be torn down at a cost of $100 million (in five years),” said Belmar Mayor Brian Magovern in announcing the state's project at the borough council meeting last night, August 7.
Added Councilman Thomas Brennan, “It feels like a kick in the teeth … why didn’t they tell us.”
Belmar and Avon officials are particularly concerned that the latest plan calls for the two-month closure of the bridge to traffic — something state officials assured borough officials, businesses and residents would not happen when the bridge is replaced. Instead, one lane of traffic in each direction would be allowed during that three-year construction project.
“We need an explanation with more details,” Councilwoman Jennifer Nicolay said. “September is tough with the start of school. Can it be pushed to October and November, January and February? Even though there is no good time for this, there has to be a better time.”
Councilman Mark Levis said he would like to see a detailed list of the proposed work, and the severity of the issues. “If guardrails need to be replaced, why two months (for the bridge’s closure)? Our businesses depend on the bridge.”
Councilman Mark Walsifer also wants to see specifics on the proposed work, particularly if there is a public safety issue. He said that it appears as if one section of the DOT is not talking to another regarding each other’s project — and the reason why Belmar is now facing another bridge closure.
The span was closed in 2011 and again in 2013 due to damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy, affecting the flow of traffic into Belmar’s central shopping district for several months.
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