BELMAR, NJ — State transportation officials have taken the first step toward further improving — or even replacing — the Main Street/Route 71 Bridge over the Shark River.

The N.J. Department of Transportation recently surveyed residents, businesses and other stakeholders in Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea, as well as maritime users of the river, on how such a project “can be designed in a way that provides the most benefit with the least amount of disruption of the community,” according to Steve Schapiro, DOT director of communications.

At the same time, the U.S. Coast Guard is asking for the public’s input as it examines the existing and potential commercial and recreational use of the river near the drawbridge — a project that is being coordinated with the DOT bridge rehabilitation effort, he said.

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The Shark River channel is one of the busiest commercial boating channels in the state and the bridge is required to open for marine traffic on-demand under U.S. Coast Guard requirements.

DOT officials are expected to hold a meeting for the community in early 2018 to report on the status of its effort, which is now in its concept development phase. This meeting will include a discussion of the bridge’s current condition and a public session to obtain further input from community members on further improvements, including replacing the span. 

The concept development phase is expected to be completed in 2020. At that point, preliminary engineering work would begin and when that is complete, final design of the project would follow, including the submission of bids, Schapiro said. The start of construction would depend on funding availability.

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In 2011, the bridge also was closed for an extended period of time when DOT replaced the outdated mechanical and electrical systems on the bridge and installed new safety barrier gates.


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