BELMAR, NJ — Contractors working on repairs to the Belmar Main Street/Route 71 bridge have packed up their equipment, returning the span to its normal traffic pattern — at least for the next several months.

Agate Construction Co. Inc. plans on returning in April when temperatures are warmer to complete the project that began in late September, according to the state Department of Transportation (DOT).

While DOT originally anticipated the work to be completed in two months, the project is now in its fourth month, and it is not known how long the final phase will take when it resumes in several months.

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“The contractor has completed repairs to the sidewalk, sidewalk curb and balustrade, as well as electrical repairs to the junction boxes and guiderails on the northbound shoulder and the southbound right lane,” said Mairin Bellack, DOT"s deputy director of communications.

“They will come back (in the spring) to complete weather-sensitive work that cannot be done in the winter,” Bellack said. “The remaining work includes repairs to the deck, deck joint, mechanical components and substructure.”

Although a $100 million federally funded project to replace the bridge is expected to get under way in 2023, a routine safety inspection last summer revealed the need for the maintenance repair work, which originally called for a total bridge closure. But following an outcry from downtown businesses in both Belmar and Avon, Belmar and Avon officials reached an agreement with DOT to keep at least one lane in each direction open during the repair work.

Merchants were dramatically affected when the bridge that connects both towns over the Shark River was closed down twice for prolonged periods in recent years — a hardship they did 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In 2011, the bridge also was closed for an extended period of time when DOT replaced the outdated mechanical and electrical systems on the bridge and installed new safety barrier gates.

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