By Donald Wittkowski
Motorists will now have to wait until 2019 for the completion of the $12.7 million reconstruction of Sea Isle Boulevard.
But don’t fret. The project has been pushed back by only 10 days, Sea Isle officials say.
Originally scheduled to wrap up on Dec. 28, the new completion date for elevating the second half of the road is Jan. 7.
“We’re looking for Jan. 7 for the full configuration to be open,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said during the Sea Isle Council meeting on Tuesday.
Savastano explained that the recent bout of rainy weather, the holidays and time-off requirements for the construction workers led the contractor, South State Inc., to tack on the extra 10 days.
Overall, the project still remains about a year ahead of schedule. The first half of the elevated road was completed last year. Crews are now paving the other side of the elevated roadway in a final push to get it done.
City Council President Jack Gibson noted that the contractor has pledged not to shut down its asphalt plant for the winter until the paving is complete.
For four years, contractors have been reconstructing the main entryway into Sea Isle to raise it by 4.5 feet. The project is creating a safer evacuation route off the low-lying barrier island by protecting motorists from flooding, even during severe storms.
The new road will not only be higher, but will be wider than the cramped lanes on the old part of the boulevard. During peak travel times in the busy summer tourism season, it is not uncommon for traffic to get backed up heading into town on the narrow, shoulderless lanes.
Cape May County, which oversees the project, is rebuilding a 1.7-mile stretch of the boulevard from the Garden State Parkway’s Exit 17 entrance ramp to the bridge entering Sea Isle. The project includes a new ramp that connects the boulevard with the northbound lanes of the parkway.
During the paving, heavy construction equipment is tucked behind concrete barriers to safely separate the work from traffic using the other side of the road. The barrier will be removed after paving is finished.
Construction crews plan to complete the Garden State Parkway on-ramp at Exit 17 before shutting down the project for the winter.
Work will resume in the spring for final striping of the road in the first week of April and landscaping improvements, according to a construction schedule posted on the city’s website.
Meanwhile, construction continues in the south end of Sea Isle on the Townsends Inlet Bridge heading into Avalon. The bridge closed on Sept. 17 and is not scheduled to reopen until May 22, 2019, during an $8.6 million reconstruction to replace seven deteriorated spans.
No longer able to make a short hop over the bridge, motorists must follow a lengthy detour using the Garden State Parkway or Route 9 for trips between Sea Isle and Avalon.
YouTube video of Townsends Inlet Bridge reconstruction project by Remington & Vernick Engineers