By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – Chalk up another problem caused by Super Storm Sandy as area motorists face the longer than anticipated closing of Seven Bridges Road – and the required traffic detours.
The ongoing work to replace an aging and deteriorating wooden bridge along the roadway, which required closing the road to all vehicular traffic, initially was expected to be completed in January. As a result of the late October storm, the Monmouth County road project is now expected to take until mid- to late April to be completed, according to county spokeswoman Laura Kirkpatrick.
According to Kirkpatrick and county engineer Joseph Ettore, the storm hit and flooded the area, causing an initial delay. Compounding matters, the project contractor was ready for workers to install the foundation piles for the bridge’s abutment. That meant JCP&L had to be contacted to disconnect the electricity for the overhead power lines, so that work could proceed.
The power utility company at that point was focused on restoring electricity to the areas that had lost it because of the storm, and the Seven Bridges Road project became a lesser priority, thus further delaying the project, Kirkpatrick said.
JCP&L wasn’t able to de-energize those lines until Dec. 7.
County officials have asked the contractor to try to accelerate work – with workers laboring on weekends – to get the project completed as soon as possible. But the project is still expected to take more than two months to complete, Kirkpatrick said.
County officials closed Seven Bridges Road last July to replace the roughly 60-year-old wooden bridge, spanning the Little Silver Creek. County engineers had deemed the structure structurally deficient.
The contractor, Lucas Brothers, Inc., Marlboro, is replacing the old wooden span with a bridge with concrete decks and reinforced concrete abutments and is reconstructing the bulkheads, according to the county. The contractor also is erecting a walking bridge across the creek to accommodate pedestrians.
For the past six months, motorists have had to use detours with the road’s northbound traffic directed toward Silverside Avenue and then to Branch Avenue. Southbound traffic has been using Rumson Road west to Branch Avenue.
Last summer, prior to the project’s start, county workers installed two temporary signal traffic lights on Branch Avenue at the Rumson Road and White Road intersections as a way to better move the increased traffic in the area.
The work has been problematic for police and local residents as they attempt to make their way around the closed areas, Police Chief Daniel Shaffrey said.
“This has been a long stretch and it’s growing old,” he said.
Since Seven Bridges Road has been closed and the aftermath of Sandy, police and motorists have had to deal with Ocean Avenue and the Rumson’s Oceanic Bridge’s closings which has compounded the local traffic situation. That has required additional manpower allocations by the police department. Police had to reroute school buses to Little Silver Point Road School and have also seen increased – and speeding – traffic through residential side streets, Shaffrey said.
“Everything has come together and really challenged us as far as logistics and traffic control,” the chief said.
“I’m looking forward to the day they reopen it,” he said. “I think the whole town will rejoice when it opens.”
“We’re very sensitive to that,” said Kirkpatrick, “and we’re doing what we can.
“But this bridge had to be replaced,” she said.