The work being done on the Oceanic Bridge between Middletown and Rumson this month has revealed the need for additional significant repairs. After meeting with local officials, business and educational leaders last week, Monmouth County officials determined that the best course of action would be to close the bridge around the clock for three weeks immediately following the Memorial Day weekend.
The Oceanic Bridge will be closed to all but marine traffic from Tuesday, May 26 through Friday, June 12. For marine traffic, seasonal rules and scheduling will be in effect.
“The County’s current Oceanic Bridge repair project has revealed deterioration in two areas not readily or previously accessible,” said Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone, liaison to the Department of Public Works and Engineering.
Two of the bridge’s four main bearings need to be repaired. The bearings are part of the mechanism that supports the bascule and flanking spans on the bridge approaches.
“The nature of the work repair requires that the bridge load be relieved by lifting the bascule and approach spans off of the bearing,” said County Engineer Joseph Ettore. “To accomplish this, the Oceanic Bridge must be closed to motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic.”
“Monmouth County has worked with the contractor, local officials and business leaders to set a schedule that gets this work done prior to the height of the tourism season,” said Arnone. “We are holding off the start of the work until after the Memorial Day weekend.”
“Our concern was that if the work began in mid-May, it would not be completed for the Memorial Day weekend,” said Arnone. “The post-Memorial Day around-the-clock work schedule reflects a mid-June completion date.”
Materials for the repairs have been ordered with delivery expected on May 13. Preparation work for the work will commence immediately and continue weekdays through May 21.
The preparation work may require full overnight closures of the Oceanic Bridge to be implemented, weather permitting, from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. as follows:
Wednesday, May 13 through Friday, May 15
Monday, May 18 through Thursday, May 21
The Bridge will be open to all traffic from Friday May 22 through Memorial Day, Monday, May 25.
“It is prudent to lift the bridge spans and perform the repairs to all four of the bearings,” said Ettore. “The bearings in need of immediate repair are on the eastern side of the bridge, but the County is also going to repair the bearings on the western side of the bridge.”
“The limits of the additional deterioration were unknown when the project began and have become evident during the cleaning and preparation process for the repairs as originally planned,” said Ettore. “The bearing work must be completed to maintain public safety and the use of the Oceanic Bridge.”
The County has authorized Harms Construction Co. Inc. of Howell to continue work on the structure that spans the Navesink River and connects Rumson to Middletown. Harms crews will be working 24 hours a day, in two -12 hour shifts, to have the work completed by June 12.
The Board of Chosen Freeholders authorized $653,650 for the repairs at its April 24 meeting.
Detours will be posted. Motorists may want to plan an alternate route. Motor vehicle traffic on Bingham Avenue between Rumson and Middletown (CR-8) should travel east and north through Sea Bright and Highlands to Middletown. Motor vehicle traffic on Navesink River Road and Locust Point Road in Middletown (CR-8) should travel east and south through Middletown, Highlands and Sea Bright to Rumson.
The 2,712-foot drawbridge crosses the Navesink River and serves beach, commercial and residential traffic, as well as pedestrian and bicycle travel. It is also a key route for coastal evacuations and emergency vehicles headed to hospitals or providing mutual aid. The bridge has been classified as structurally deficient.
Built in 1939, the Oceanic Bridge has deteriorated due to decades of exposure to saltwater and from accommodating heavier vehicles and traffic volumes than for which it was designed.
In 2012, Monmouth County completed extensive work to rehabilitate the bridge’s 100-foot, center bascule span, allowing motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to continue use of the bridge.
Monmouth County received notification from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) Board of Trustees in January that $600,000 in federal funding was available to perform a Concept Development Study for the replacement or rehabilitation of the Oceanic Bridge.
“As the years have gone on, maintaining this bridge has become more costly and difficult,” said. Arnone, a NJTPA Board member. “This grant will allow us to look to the future and take steps toward building a better bridge, one that will stand up to the extreme coastal storms we’ll face and serve our modern travel needs.”
Monmouth County plans to replace the Oceanic Bridge in the next ten years.