Morris Boulevard Bridge Replacement Slated to Begin Next Month

By Gina G. Scala | Aug 28, 2019

Stafford Township — With Labor Day less than a week away, questions about when work to replace the Morris Boulevard Bridge is expected to start have already begun popping up among local boating community members.

“The plan is to start after Labor Day and be done before Memorial Day,” John Ernst, Ocean County engineer, said Monday afternoon ahead of a pre-construction meeting with the contractor, as well as representatives from utility companies, local police and Stafford Township officials Aug. 27.

Ernst said he didn’t foresee any surprises arising from the mid-morning meeting that would disrupt the expected start time of the project.

“We’ve been coordinating with the utility company because there are some utilities that need to be permanently relocated,” he said, noting once that work is done the roadway will be shut and the bridge replacement project can begin.

“There isn’t enough room to stage the construction (otherwise),” Ernst has said.

As a result of the road closure, the Stafford Township School District has moved the school bus stop from that area to the triangular intersection of Jennifer Lane, Joshua Drive and Morris Boulevard, according to Linda Morris, district transportation supervisor.

“The state and the county work well with us,” Morris said, noting the district needs only a few days to revamp school bus routes. “We like to give parents advance notice.”

It’s easier for older children because they can walk home from a school bus stop without supervision, but a parent or other designated adult must meet pre-school to second-grade students at the bus stop, she said.

The elementary district buses 2,200 students, Morris said.

Earlier this year, a social media campaign successfully challenged county engineers to find an additional 1-foot under-clearance for the replacement of the Morris Boulevard Bridge. The original replacement bridge called for a combined width of 40 feet and an under-clearance of 8 feet at mean high tide, according to Ernst.

It was designed in 2009, three years prior to Superstorm Sandy. Unhappy with the explanation that the Morris Boulevard bridge could be raised only so high because of the vertical profile of the township-owned road and its 25-mph speed limit, opponents of the 2009 redesign mounted a campaign that included reaching out to Freeholder John C. Kelly.

With the 9-foot under-clearance and 40 feet total width of the replacement bridge, the size and scope of the bridge are similar to those of one on Marsha Drive, less than a mile away in the Beach Haven West section of Stafford Township. Both bridges egress from the lagoon community to Route 72, although the Marsha Drive bridge is also an ingress into the waterfront area.

Ernst said the redesign drove the cost of the project up by $50,000 to $75,000 but hasn’t impacted the timing of the project.

The Morris Boulevard bridge is located near the beginning of the Causeway to Long Beach Island. Built in 1955, the bridge is currently 20 feet wide with an under-clearance of 7 feet. Morris Boulevard is a Stafford Township roadway.

Ernst said the plans were reviewed by the state Department of Transportation, a step that is necessary because funding for the $1.6 million project is from the state transportation trust fund.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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