BELMAR, NJ — Belmar’s Main Street/Route 71 bridge will remain open during a two-month routine maintenance project that is scheduled to begin on Monday, September 10.
During the work, one lane of traffic will be permitted in each direction over the span that connects Belmar and Avon-by-the Sea, announced Belmar Mayor Brian Magovern after he and Avon representatives met today, August 16 with Denise Peck of the state Department of Transportation’s Office of Community and Constituency Relations.
In addition, the project’s start date was pushed back a week until September 10 —after most students are back in school following the Labor Day weekend.
When officials of both boroughs were informed of the project last week, they were told the preventive maintenance work would result in the span’s closure, which brought a chorus of objections from residents and businesses on both sides of the bridge.
“They are not going to close the bridge,” Magovern said. “They advised us the bridge will remain open — one lane in each direction. And they emphasized it was routine preventive maintenance work.”
While DOT officials could not be reached to provide details of the upcoming project following today’s meeting, a spokesperson previously said the work is needed as a result of safety inspections.
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 earlier this week.
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In 2011, the bridge also was closed for an extended period of time when DOT replaced the outdated mechanical and electrical systems on the bridge and installed new safety barrier gates.
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