Officials seek options to proposed 3-month Longport bridge closure

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Freeholders to hear public input at special meeting 4 p.m. Tuesday 

County officials have proposed closing the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge that connects Longport and Egg Harbor Township for $5 million in repairs. County officials have proposed closing the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge that connects Longport and Egg Harbor Township for $5 million in repairs.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge that connects Longport and Egg Harbor Township may be closed for three months for repairs beginning Sept. 4 and again for two weeks in April 2014 if the city of Longport agrees to the plan as well.

Township Administrator Peter Miller informed the Township Committee of the county plan at the committee meeting Wednesday, Jan. 23. The plan was shared during a meeting with township and Longport officials earlier that day.

The repair work is expected to cost approximately $5 million and be completed in two phases, with funding by the state.

According to Atlantic County Engineer Joe D’Abundo, the first phase is for work that is out of the water. That phase is estimated to cost approximately $3.5 million. The second phase, to begin after completion of the first, would address the foundation and pilings and is expected to cost $2 million. The bridge, which sustained damage during Hurricane Sandy in October, is the primary connection between Longport and the mainland and serves as the primary access for Seaview Harbor residents as well.

Miller said the initial plan that was presented to the municipalities involved keeping a single lane open with alternating traffic flow for two years, but officials from both towns found that unacceptable and asked for another option. The revised option, which the township supports, would begin with work underneath the bridge starting this summer. The work that would impact the deck of the bridge is not expected to begin until after Labor Day.

The scope of the work includes repairing concrete and overlaying it with a waterproof epoxy, installing new deck joints, repairing structural steel members in the main span of the bridge, cleaning and painting the steel main of the bridge, replacing damaged and tilted bridge bearings, repairing and restoring the load capacity of deteriorated concrete beams, applying concrete penetrating sealer treatment to all elements, and installing the beam guide rail and non-vegetative surface at the bridge approach roadway.

During the fall, motorists will most likely be detoured to state roads since the project is state funded.

“They will likely have to take people up Route 9 to Black Horse Pike into Atlantic City,” Miller said, noting that locals will more likely travel down Shore Road and into Margate instead.

The committee approved to consent to the county plan, and now the matter rests with Longport.

“If Longport vetoes it, then there isn’t much more for us to do,” Miller said. “They are impacted dramatically more.”

Longport Mayor Nick Russo said Tuesday, Jan. 29 that he would be in favor of keeping one lane open on the bridge if there is a way to shorten the overall construction time.

“Unfortunately because of the geographical location, where it’s the southernmost tip of Absecon Island, this is where the challenge lies,” Russo said. “It’s going to be a tremendous inconvenience for the people of Ventnor, Margate, Longport and Somers Point.”

Russo said he has written a letter to the operators of the Downbeach Express (the Margate causeway) to see what can be done to alleviate the financial hardship for people paying the $1.50 toll on the Margate bridge.

“I’m also sensitized to construction workers who are coming in and out of the island that are doing rebuilding or remediation for homeowners, and you don’t want to see these individuals straddled with additional costs such as the Margate bridge toll.,” he said.

Mainly, Russo said he wants to hear from the public. The Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders has scheduled a meeting 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5 in Longport Borough Hall to take input from the public and officials in the affected communities.

“I’m interested in hearing from the public on how they feel about this. Most people that I talked to so far have indicated that they prefer it was the dead of winter to have the bridge closed all together, and they would live with the detouring for that period of time three or four months,” said Russo.

“I would personally like to see the bridge remain open during the repairs if there was any way to cut the time period. That’s the thing that is a real concern. It’s one thing to be inconvenienced – we’ve all been inconvenienced by detours from construction, but long term, people are already coming to me and already anticipating a problem.”

Russo said the engineer’s report includes pictures of wooden pilings severely in need of repair and concrete with the metal rebar exposed.

The mutual aid of first responders in Longport and Egg Harbor Township would be altered to accommodate the closure. Currently, Longport is the first responder to Seaview Harbor on the Egg Harbor Township side of the bridge for motor vehicle accidents, EMT calls and police and fire response. Egg Harbor Township patrols the area.

Miller has indicated an agreement could be made between the township and Ocean City to assist with calls for police and fire service.

Russo said EMTs could transport to the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center City Campus in Atlantic City.

“It’s not something that anybody wants; it’s a necessity to repair – and hopefully the final solution, whatever this is, is something all of us can live with,” he said.

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said he would prefer not to see the bridge closed entirely and that he favors keeping one lane open during construction.

“The advantage for keeping one lane open far outweighs keeping the bridge closed for a certain amount of time,” he said Wednesday.

“We have an alternative. It is more costly, but I think in the long run it will be more adventitious to keep a lane open,” said Levinson.

Keeping one lane open is more convenient for residents and improves access for emergency vehicles, he noted.

That option would add about $50,000 to the cost, he said.

Levinson said he looks forward to hearing input at the meeting.


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