BELMAR, NJ — Repair work on the Belmar Main Street/Route 71 bridge has resumed with the project expected to wrap up by Memorial Day — weather permitting, according to state transportation officials.
During the work, traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction on the drawbridge, which spans the Shark River, connecting Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea. Boat traffic will not be affected, and the bridge’s sidewalks will remain open to pedestrians.
The routine maintenance project on the 87-year-old bridge, which started last September, was suspended in February due to the cold temperatures. Agate Construction Co. Inc. is returning to make concrete deck, joint and miscellaneous asphalt repairs, perform maintenance work on its moveable bridge parts, and finish up with crack sealing and waterproofing of the substructure, and cleaning of the drainage scuppers, according to the N.J. Department of Transportation.
During the first five months of the project, the Dennis Township-based company 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.
Although a $100 million federally funded project to replace the aging 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 on both sides of the bridge when it 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In 2011, the bridge also was closed for an extended period of time when DOT replaced the outdated mechanical and electrical systems on the bridge and installed new safety barrier gates.
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