Wednesday's public forums on the years-down-the-road replacement of the failing Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge have nothing to do with the looming weeks-long closure for some Sandy-wrought and security repairs.
Nonetheless, judging from comments all over the Woody's Ocean Grille and Sea Bright Rising Facebook page, plenty of people plan on showing up at one or the other forum to vent concerns over the immediately pending closure's prospective ill effects on a struggling-to-survive, Hurricane Sandy-afflicted Sea Bright.
Conducted open house-style, one forum will take place in the afternoon, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Sea Bright Municipal Building, 1167 Ocean Ave.; and the other session is slated for 6 to 8 p.m. in the media room at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, 74 Ridge Road, Rumson.
The 60-year-old drawbridge, which spans the Shrewsbury River on Monmouth County's Route 520 and takes on average traffic of up to 15,000 vehicles a day, has been deemed in "serious" condition, but can still handle the weight of emergency vehicles. The public forums are all part of what county engineers have dubbed the concept development phase of the project.
There is no official price tag on the bridge replacement yet. Regardless, the goal is to get a design plan approved at the state level to make federal funding for construction a shoo-in. The study and conceptual draft work have been fully funded by federal transportation grants, Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone said.
While “there is no schedule for the start of construction on this bridge improvement project,” Monmouth County Engineer Joseph M. Ettore said, officials had said at a June stakeholders' meeting that, should federal funding come in and all go according to plan, this phase of the project is expected to last until April or so and the following preliminary engineering phase is anticipated to last another 18 months with the construction likely starting somewhere around the fall of 2016.
"Representatives from the Monmouth County Division of Engineering will be on hand to answer questions and to explain the project. The bridge designs will address factors related to the bridge’s load capacity, conditions, geometry, highway and pedestrian safety," a release stated.
"We are looking forward to these meetings because public input is invaluable as we advance through the preliminary and final design of this project,” Ettore said in the release.
While a bridge revamp is an option, it has not been considered a feasible one by officials. And while some fear a higher fixed span replacement, like the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge (now officially the Captain Joseph Azzolina Bridge) it's not viable, they said at the June meeting, because the space in which it must be built is just too small.
Ten conceptual options for replacement and/or revamp (even though it's not considered feasible) have been bandied about.
Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long and other Sea Bright and Rumson stakeholders had said they overwhelmingly favored the draft for the project that calls for building a temporary replacement drawbridge “completely off line” from the existing bridge, meaning right next to the existing bridge, with two lanes eastbound, one lane westbound and intersection improvements on the Sea Bright side, such as sidewalks and islands.
That temporary bridge would be constructed right next to the north alignment drawbridge structure. There would be no temporary bridge detours, only what county officials consider minor detour times (of about three months maximum).
The favored concept also calls for a cul-de-sac to be built “at the Rumson Road leg of the intersection to eliminate the fifth leg of the intersection. The existing substandard horizontal curve through the intersection will be eliminated, and intersection sight distance will be improved,” according to that draft plan.
County officials encourage people in the area to attend one or both of the forums, offer input and get any questions answered.
However, if you are unable to attend, you may submit comments through Feb. 22.
Mail comments to Inkyung Englehart, Project Coordinator, Monmouth County Department of Public Works and Engineering, Hall of Records Annex, 3rd floor, One East Main St., Freehold, NJ 07728. Fax to 732-431-7765. Comments may also be emailed to email@example.com.
For more information about the proposed design of bridge, visit the county website.