By LINDA G. RASTELLI
To celebrate Independence Day, Rumson borough typically closes off part of the Oceanic Bridge to enable spectators to view Red Bank’s fireworks, opening the span periodically for boats to get through.
This year, though, the town is 100 years old and in the mood to party. So, as part of its ongoing centennial celebration, Rumson plans to hold its own, first fireworks next Tuesday night a display that’s to be synched up with Red Banks KaBoom celebration.
But some sparks have already been flying over access to emergency services and concerns about gridlock between the two Navesink River bridges the Oceanic, linking Rumson to the Locust section of Middletown, and the Cooper Bridge, to the west, which connects Middletown to Red Bank.
Officials at Riverview Medical Center informed Red Bank and Rumson officials by letter recently that they could not “guarantee transport” to the hospital with access to the Oceanic Bridge restricted.
“There are a lot more people in town,” said Donna Sellman, spokeswoman for the hospital. “If the bridge is closed or partially closed, ambulances may make it through, but our concern is also for somebody not in an ambulance. In a heart attack or stroke every minute is precious.”
The hospital is typically “quite busy” on the night that Independence Day is celebrated, Sellman said.
But such concerns are “not warranted at all,” said Rumson mayor John Ekdahl. “I dont think when they wrote their letter they knew we were only closing one lane. Emergency vehicles will still be able to get through.
“They should look in their own backyard,” he added, referring to Cooper Bridge. “While the (KaBoom) show’s going on, theres no traffic at all there.” (Middletown officials did not return calls by press time.)
Red Bank officials, including Mayor Pasquale Menna and borough administrator/fire marshal Stanley Sickels, said last night that they had been previously unaware of Rumson’s practice of closing one lane on the two-lane Oceanic Bridge during Red Banks fireworks.
“This was news to us,” said Sickels, “But it’s up to them and (Monmouth) county to work it out.” A “marine event” also requires a permit from the Coast Guard, which signed off June 7 on Rumsons plan, Sickels added. Red Bank officials have been meeting with their Rumson counterparts since then to ensure that there will be enough police coverage and Coast Guard security to handle whatever happens, he noted.
What about gridlock? According to KaBoom, the privately funded fireworks committee that handles the annual Red Bank festivities, as many as 170,000 people come to “the banks of the Navesink River” for Red Banks pyrotechnics, the majority of them along the south bank. But no one yet knows how the addition of the Rumson fireworks, which will be lofted from a barge, will affect turnout and traffic.
“There’s a theory that people will stay in Rumson rather than drive over to Red Bank, and therell be no significant impact,” says Mayor Mike Halfacre of Fair Haven, which is sandwiched between the two towns and would benefit from such a scenario. As a precaution against post-fireworks gridlock, though, the borough plans to divert traffic coming out of Red Bank along River Road onto Ridge Road, which runs parallel to River Road.