LITTLE SILVER — Three months into the rehabilitation project, county officials say that work on the Oceanic Bridge is proceeding as scheduled.
According to information provided by the county’s Public Information Office, repair work is moving ahead on the 100-foot center bascule span of the drawbridge, spanning the Navesink River, connecting Rumson to the Locust section of Middletown.
The contractor, Iron Bridge Group, Inc., North Brunswick, has removed and replaced two of the major beams on the bridge’s north leaf of its bascule span and has reinforced its east and west girders. Along with that, a temporary platform on the south leaf’s bascule has been installed, preparing for the repair work on that side of the structure, while 95 percent of the existing components have been cleaned and primed and other portions have already been painted.
“The project is continuing on schedule,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Thomas Arnone in a released statement, indicating the unusually warm winter has allowed workers to make progress and remain on schedule.
Painting, however, has been stopped for much of the winter months; still, workers have removed about 10 55-gallon drums of paint chips and rust from some of the sections. Work on some of the mechanical components is going forward off-site, according to Arnone, who oversees county public works and engineering departments.
The Oceanic Bridge is the largest of the county-owned 980 bridges and culverts, which are maintained by the county’s public works department.
County officials closed the bridge to all traffic back in October to repair the aging and deteriorating structure, detouring traffic through Red Bank and north or through Sea Bright.
To allow for marine traffic, one section the bridge’s bascule span is being kept open.
Officials are hopeful the construction work will be completed by the end of May to allow summer traffic back on it.
It can’t happen soon enough for Todd Thompson, one of the owners of Guarantee Plants and Florist, on the Middletown side.
Thompson said he is thankful that work is progressing well but he wanted county officials to reiterate to the contractor how this closing is impacting local businesses. “This has really affected the businesses a lot more than a lot of people thought it would,” Thompson said this week, acknowledging his walk-in business is down by more than 50 percent.
“Most of the people have been affected pretty dramatically,” he said. And not opening until Memorial Day, which is the current schedule, could further hurt Thompson’s business, as spring is a busy season.
Steve Bidgood, managing partner for Salt Creek Grille, which is right at the bridge’s Rumson portion, has been chugging along pretty well, he said this week. Given the fact that much of his business comes from the Rumson side, “Knock on wood, my sales (are) here, I haven’t seen that much of a drop,” other than a little in his happy hour business.
As for the work, “I have been out there and it’s amazing,” he said, explaining spectators can’t really see much from the roadway, as workers are concentrating on the under portion. “It’s been pretty interesting,” what has been going on, he said.
Thompson is also president of the Friends of the Oceanic Bridge, a group looking retain a drawbridge seeing it as more aesthetic and functional for this area, as opposed to a much higher fixed span one proposed for future construction. Thompson said his group’s lobbying efforts are continuing and they have been reaching out to state and federal officials.