By Maddy Vitale
After four months of a major overhaul project to replace sections of the antiquated Townsends Inlet Bridge, local and county officials are confident the job will be completed in time for the all-important summer tourism season.
The nearly 80-year-old bridge connecting Sea Isle City and Avalon, closed since Sept. 17 for reconstruction, is scheduled to reopen on May 22, 2019, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
In giving an update on the project Friday, Cape May County Engineer Robert Church said the work is right on schedule.
“First, and most importantly, although there have been some unexpected issues with construction, the contractor is still on schedule to meet the overall completion date of May 22,” Church said in an email.
About one-fourth of the old bridge is missing. It has been demolished and will be replaced as part of the bridge’s $8.6 million overhaul.
In all, there are 27 spans that comprise the entire 1,373-foot structure. Seven of the spans on the Avalon side were badly deteriorated and must be replaced.
“To date, all of the demolition is complete,” Church explained. “The new piles of pier 1 are in place, and they expect to pour this pier cap within the next week. Over the next two weeks they will be performing underwater salvage to clear the channel of debris in anticipation of installation of new piers 2 and 3 , which is scheduled for the end of January.”
Officials in both Sea Isle and Avalon have been kept apprised of the reconstruction progress.
“We keep the municipalities updated by issuing a two-week look ahead schedule after our biweekly meetings with the contractor,” Church noted.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio, who is also a Cape May County freeholder, said he is very pleased that the bridge completion date is still expected to be met.
“The T.I. Bridge has opened and closed for the past few years. It is a very important project,” Desiderio said. “I am happy to hear it is on schedule. I am hoping for a mild winter so that there are no delays. That would be good for not only Sea Isle, but our friends in Avalon.”
Built in 1939, the bridge has gone through a series of shutdowns in recent years for structural repairs, maintenance work and related road construction. Last year, it was closed for emergency repairs from April to late June after a structural crack and severe deterioration were discovered on the Avalon side during an underwater inspection.
At the same time the bridge is under reconstruction, Sea Isle Boulevard, also known as the causeway, is undergoing an elevation project to create a road protected from floods, even in severe coastal storms. After four years of construction, the work is winding down and is scheduled to be completed Jan. 7, according to the latest announced timetable.
The boulevard is the main entryway into Sea Isle. The last section of the 1.7-mile roadway is being elevated between Exit 17 of the Garden State Parkway and the bridge entering Sea Isle.
“The bridge and the causeway are two important roadways. I want to thank the residents and other motorists, who travel those roads daily, for their understanding,” Desiderio said. “When the causeway is complete, it will be a great roadway to travel on and in the event of a storm, we will know that we will be able to evacuate.”
The mayor said there is one goal in mind with improved infrastructure in Sea Isle.
“We are trying to ease the burden on the residents and the visitors,” he said.