A Year Ahead of Schedule: The Rehab of the Old Causeway Bridge Is Officially Completed

By GINA G. SCALA | May 22, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Stafford Township — In the not-too-distant past, it at times felt as though work on the main Causeway bridges would continue forever as the endless bob-and-weave of traffic shift changes marked days in the offseason on the only roadway to and from Long Beach Island. Well, it’s over – and a year ahead of schedule, too.

The completion of the rehabbing project is so monumental to the region that it drew local, county, state and federal officials to the sidewalk area just west of Causeway Marina in Manahawkin for a ribbon cutting ceremony that honored project engineers, the contractors and workers, local communities, and the late state Sen. and Surf City Mayor Leonard T. Connors Jr.

“Lenny was such a driving force,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn. “What happened here today … this is Len Connors Day.”

It was also a day that celebrated partnerships: between the LBI communities and Stafford Township; the local governments and the state of New Jersey; between the state Department of Transportation and the federal government; and finally, with the contractors and workers who performed the work in some of the worst conditions.

“This is a perfect example of everyone working together,” state Sen. Christopher J. Connors (R-9th) said. The contractors and workers “were challenged to build bridges when people were still using them.”

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, state DOT commissioner, acknowledged there had been some bumps in the road.

“These projects don’t happen without some hard conversations,” she said, touching briefly on the lane closure controversy that almost derailed the region’s 2018 summer season. “But we worked through it together.”

The $319 million federally funded project is one of the most important projects the DOT has in the entire state. Work began in 2013 and is expected to continue through 2022. The next major piece of the project, expected to begin in the spring 2020, will address safety and operational issues at the Route 72/Marsha Drive intersection in Stafford Township, and operational and drainage improvements in Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island.

That phase of the nine-year project calls for approximately 3,000 feet of Eighth and Ninth streets where they intersect with Barnegat and Central avenues and Long Beach Boulevard to be widened. It’s this phase of the federally funded improvement project that focuses on reconfiguring the Causeway Circle into a square at the Arlington Beach Club, the new condo complex where a vacant gas station was previously located.

Squaring off the beach club property makes room for traffic pattern changes on Eighth and Ninth streets, the entrance and exit roadways for LBI from Route 72. It also will change the traffic flow on Central Avenue and on the Boulevard, which will be converted into a two-way road in front of the former CVS.

Central Avenue is currently a one-way road southbound between Third and 11th streets in Ship Bottom before motorists come to the traffic circle. It’s this area that would be turned into a two-way street. Left traffic turns at Central Avenue will be prohibited at the intersection with Eighth and Ninth streets. Other improvements to the roadways include widening the streets by 13 feet to provide for an additional lane of traffic, an additional 3 feet for the inside shoulder and a new 8-foot-wider shoulder.

In addition to the road work, a new storm drainage system and new outfalls will be installed in an effort to reduce frequent flooding along Route 72 where it intersects with Barnegat and Central avenues and the Boulevard, Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. At Marsha Drive, a third lane will be added to Route 72 in each direction for a limited distance to help more vehicles get through the traffic signal there. Marsha Drive will be reconfigured to provide double left-turn lanes onto Route 72.

“I am honored and privileged to be a part of it (the ceremony) on this absolutely gorgeous day,” said Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove (R-9th Dist.).

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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