Longport bridge to remain open during repairs

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LONGPORT – Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said Thursday that the county plans to move forward with a plan to repair the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge that will keep one lane open during construction.

The word came down two days after a presentation and public comment Tuesday on the two options for handling the $3.15 million first phase of the rehabilitation of the 50-year-old bridge that links Longport to Egg Harbor Township.

The consensus among the public and local officials is to keep a lane of traffic open while construction is ongoing. Traffic would have to be alternating while the other lane is closed.  

Levinson told The Current Thursday that he was pleased to get the input from local officials.

“We will most certainly honor the will of the people,” Levinson said Feb. 7. “We’re going to go forward with the consent of the freeholders.”

The alternative plan would have been to close the bridge to all civilian traffic from September of this year until mid-April 2014. Emergency vehicles would have been allowed to cross from mid-December through March.

“The reason it received so much attention is the fact that the detour would be quite a distance or would be quite expensive at $1.50 on the Margate bridge, which is more convenient but far more expensive than using Albany Avenue,” Levinson said.   

Longport Mayor Nick Russo said that hopefully the plan will not be too much of an inconvenience for residents in his town.

“However, my concern is, if the traffic begins to back up and we start getting the gas fume pollution, the noise pollution, then it may have to be revisited,” Russo said.

“Clearly the one lane is the best for the people of Longport; it gives us access to Somers Point and it’s also good for our businesses that are in the Downbeach area.”

County Engineer Joe D’Abundo said at the Feb. 5 meeting, which was held in Longport, that the proposed detour would have taken motorists down Shore Road to the Black Horse Pike, tacking 18 miles onto the trip. Using the toll bridge would shorten the detour to 12 miles.

“We’ve gotten complaints as far as way as Ocean City and Sea Isle from people who come in over that bridge,” Levinson said. “This is truly the best way to go in my opinion, and I’m glad there was a consensus.”

Keeping one lane open would add $50,000 to the project.

The work includes repairing the concrete bridge deck and overlying it with a waterproof epoxy slurry system, installing new deck joints, repairing structural steel members in the main span of the bridge, blast cleaning and painting the steel main span, replacing damaged and tilted bridge bearings, repairing deteriorated timber and steel jacked piles, repairing and restoring the load capacity of deteriorated concrete beams and applying a penetrating sealer treatment to all concrete bridge elements.

Under the proposal, construction would begin May 1, and work would be allowed continuously Monday through Thursday on the bridge deck and underneath the deck with one lane open.

Both lanes of traffic would be open to traffic between May 22 and early September in 2013 and 2014

Construction would shut down on the bridge deck in the winter when the temperature dips below about 45 degrees.

The project has an expected completion date of fall 2014.

“Right now this is preventative,” Levinson pointed out.

He said the saltwater environment takes its toll on the 175 bridges for which the county is responsible.

“It needs constant maintenance. We want to be on top,” he said.

The second phase of the project will address the foundation and pilings and is expected to cost about $2 million. Neither project has gone out for bid. 

Photos provided by Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson Engineering.

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