The annual fall/winter lane closures on the Causeway as part of the $312 million rehabilitation and expansion project is expected to advance the project further, including electrical work that entails a new “String of Pearls.”
Dan Triana, public information officer for the state Department of Transportation, said motorists can expect one lane in each direction to close early next month. The traffic shift will be in effect until spring.
“This new traffic pattern will allow for the installation of new deck joints,” he said, adding it will also permit making necessary repairs to the bridge deck and completion of the new roadway surface.
Triana said the new deck installation on the old Causeway was completed last month and the pouring of the new parapets is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
“Construction on the drainage upgrades and retaining walls is scheduled to resume this fall,” he said.
Lighting work – including an LED generation of the original string of pearls, which is for aesthetic purposes only – as well as other utilities will start once construction on the parapets advances enough to allow for the electrical contractor to mobilize. The designer of the original bridge, N.J. Department of Transportation engineer Dorland J. Henderson, created the lighting system made of separate fluorescent lights recessed into the bridge’s side guardrails. The design is said to have been the first of its kind in the world.
Additionally, next month is the anticipated completion of the handrails necessary for the multi-use ramps to be opened for the public, according to Triana.
“Most of the sidewalk and fencing have been installed around the East and West Thorofare bridge abutments,” he said, “as well as the connections into the previously built sidewalks that allows pedestrians the ability to walk over to the nature trail on Cedar Bonnet Island,” as the state refers to Bonnet Island.
The federally funded project is expected to improve pedestrian and bicycle access for both commuting and recreational activities by providing a contiguous path between the mainland and Long Beach Island along the north side of Route 72, Triana said. Pedestrian sidewalks will be provided along Eighth and Ninth streets, Barnegat Avenue, Central Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard in Ship Bottom as part of the pedestrian safety improvements and connectivity for the Island during the final phase of the project.
Enhancements for bicycle compatibility constructed to date include a 6-foot-wide outside shoulder to accommodate bicyclists on the East Thorofare and West Thorofare bridges. The Hilliards Thorofare bridge is currently under construction and will offer the same bicycle accessibility. The rehabilitated Manahawkin Bay Bridge will have a 13-foot outside shoulder to facilitate bicyclists. A 10-foot multi-use walkway constructed on Bonnet Island to the west of the West Thorofare Bridge will accommodate both pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
Construction for the entire project, including the bicycle and pedestrian improvements, is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021. The project to build a new bridge parallel to the existing one over the Manahawkin Bay began in 2013. Its main goal is to provide the safety of a redundant route on and off the barrier island. The new bridge is 2,400 feet long with a vertical clearance of 55 feet over Manahawkin Bay. Ultimately, it will function as the bridge for eastbound traffic once the project is completed, with the rehabilitated original bridge carrying westbound traffic.
The precise timing of the work is subject to change due to weather or other factors. Motorists are encouraged to check the DOT’s traffic information website, 511nj.org, for construction updates and real-time travel information, and for DOT news, Twitter @NJDOT_info.
— Gina G. Scala