BELMAR, NJ — The two-month maintenance project on Belmar’s Main Street/Route 71 bridge will begin tomorrow, September 24.

During the work, traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction, as crews will complete repairs on one-half of the span and then move to the other half, according to a project update on September 6 by the N.J. Department of Transportation.

The drawbridge, which connects Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea, will remain operational for boat traffic.

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As a result of a recent safety inspection, DOT reported that the routine maintenance was needed, including concrete deck and curb repairs, preformed silicon replacement, bearing maintenance, substructure repairs and crack sealing, waterproofing and miscellaneous asphalt repairs. It also will involve servicing of junction boxes and warning gongs, and cleaning of scuppers for deck drainage and tide clearance gauges.

Although Belmar and Avon officials were originally informed in mid-August that the maintenance project would result in the span’s closure, an agreement was reached with DOT to keep it open after residents and businesses on both sides of the bridge objected to a total shutdown of the bridge for two months.

In addition, the project’s start date was originally slated for September 3, but that date was pushed back to September 10 — after most students are back in school — and then delayed once more for another week to September 17.

The maintenance project comes amid a major effort to replace the 86-year-old bridge over the Shark River — a $100 million federally funded project that is expected to get under way in 2023.

In many cases, repairs are made to a bridge to maintain reliability and safety before a full structural replacement or rehabilitation project is possible, said DOT spokesperson Daniel Triana.

Businesses in the downtown sectors of both Belmar and Avon said they were dramatically affected when the bridge was closed down twice for prolonged periods in recent years — a hardship they do not want to experience again.

Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the bridge was closed to traffic for nearly 50 days so that electrical and mechanical repairs could be made. Those systems, which power the drawbridge, were extensively damaged by tidal flooding and wind generated by the massive storm.

In 2011, the bridge also was closed for an extended period of time when DOT replaced the outdated mechanical and electrical systems on the bridge and installed new safety barrier gates.

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