By Donald Wittkowski
After a 10-month shutdown for an extensive reconstruction project, the Townsends Inlet Bridge linking Sea Isle City and Avalon appears to be on track to reopen in two weeks.
The 80-year-old bridge originally was supposed to reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend, but the contractor ran into delays that pushed back the completion date to July 30.
As work enters the final stages, including the pouring of concrete for the bridge decking and approach road on the Avalon side, confidence is growing that the new target date of July 30 will be met.
“As it stands right now, it appears that the July 30th date will hold,” Cape May County Engineer Robert Church said in an email Monday. “The contractor has completed a significant amount of work to date, however, there are several remaining work items that must be completed in sequence in order to keep everything on schedule, as well as the potential for weather to be an issue. But right now, the July 30th date appears realistic.”
New aerial video shot Monday morning by the engineering firm Remington & Vernick Inc. using a drone shows a small army of construction workers and heavy machinery pouring the concrete for the new bridge decking.
In the closing sequence of the two-minute, 12-second video, the drone zooms in on hard-hat workers as they smooth out the concrete and then pulls away to reveal panoramic views of the bridge, the inlet and the southern tip of Sea Isle.
(Video courtesy of Remington & Vernick Engineers Inc.)
The bridge closed last September for an $8.6 million repair project to replace seven deteriorated spans on the Avalon side.
In addition to the concrete work, the contractor must complete the bridge railing and remove all of the construction scaffolding. The final work includes saw-cutting the concrete decking for drainage and striping the lanes before the bridge reopens to traffic, Church explained.
“So several tasks need to come in alignment and the weather still needs to cooperate,” he said in the email.
When the bridge reopens, motorists will be able again to make a short hop across Townsends Inlet for trips between Sea Isle and Avalon. With the bridge out of service, they are forced to take a lengthy detour on the Garden State Parkway or Route 9 to travel between both towns.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio and Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi have repeatedly warned about the negative economic impact on both towns by having such a vital transportation link closed down during the height of the summer tourism season.
Built in 1939, the antiquated county-owned bridge has gone through a series of shutdowns in recent years for structural repairs, maintenance work and related road construction. Estimates to build an entirely new bridge range from $105 million to $175 million, but the county does not have the money.
Desiderio, who is also a county freeholder, has expressed hope that the July 30 reopening date could be accomplished, but noted in an earlier interview that “seeing is believing.”
“I’m not going to get too excited until we get down the stretch and see if July 30 is for real,” he said.