The new Front Street bridge project will include pedestrian walkways, wide shoulders, public access to the river, and at minimum four months of driving headaches for those already all too familiar with the regular frustration caused by the Red Bank and Middletown connector.
Design plans and details for the long-awaited proposed Front Street bridge replacement project were outlined before the Red Bank Council Wednesday night by Monmouth County Engineer Joe Ettore. The plan, one that’s nearly a decade in the making, has gone through multiple redesigns before officials arrived at the current one, which they promise will impact residents the least.
According to Ettore, the $12 million project is slated to begin early in 2013. The new bridge will be built alongside of the current one, which will finally close to drivers when both ends of the new construction are connected to either side of Red Bank and Middletown. That process, county officials hope, will take just four months. The hope is that the bridge closure falls after the holiday shopping season and prior to the summer months.
That, of course, represents the best case scenario. Should the project fall behind schedule, as major projects are wont to do – the still-wrecked intersection of Routes 35 and 36 in Eatontown serves as ongoing proof of that point – the bridge closure could conceivably fall right in line with the same months officials are hoping to avoid.
The Front Street bridge is a major thoroughfare connecting Red Bank and Middletown. Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna said previous iterations of the bridge replacement plan called for a complete closure for as long as two years. That plan, he said, would have been a “catastrophe” for both Red Bank and Middletown. The most recent plan, which Menna supports, was arrived at with the goal of negatively impacting both residents and local businesses in the least way.
According to Ettore, the bridge sees more than 17,500 vehicles pass over it each day. Because of the close proximity of traffic lights, specifically on the Red Bank side of the bridge at Shrewsbury and Bridge Avenues, traffic has a tendency to back up during busier times of the day causing delays of sometimes up to an hour when crossing the span. Ettore said as part of the plan the county will look to retime the offending lights, hopefully, to make traveling the bridge a more express process.
Though bridge replacement – and the resulting bridge closing during the process – is necessary, officials hope the end product will more than make up for it. In addition to widened lanes and more pedestrian and cyclist access, the architectural design of the bridge will make it attractive. Borough Administrator Stanley Sickles said the bridge, which has always served as a “backdoor” entrance to Red Bank, will be the gateway the borough has always looked for.
The county is also including public water access in its plan, which Menna said will directly benefit the residents of the west side of the borough.
To facilitate the larger bridge, the county will encroach on private property on both sides of the bridge. In Middletown, Ettore said the area is a relatively small one. The official hope, he said, is that the result will be a willing buyer and willing seller negotiation between the county and the private property owner. In Red Bank, the county is currently under contract to purchase a private residence on Rector Place to be cleared in time for bridge construction.