Img_4590Monmouth County Engineer Joe Ettore silhouetted by a rendering of the proposed replacement for Hubbards Bridge. Part of the existing structure, seen in the inset, may be turned into a pocket park, shown in brown in the rendering.

The news is good for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as people who crab and fish from Hubbards Bridge: when a replacement for the current span is built in coming years, it will have wide sidewalks on both sides, not just the northern edge, says Monmouth County Engineer Joe Ettore.

But looming over the planned southern walkway is the still-unresolved question: a sidewalk to where?

As now envisioned, that one would open on the Red Bank side into a pocket park built on the site of the existing bridge anchorage next to Red Bank Marina (formerly Sea-Land Marina). But because the trestle beneath the adjoining New Jersey Transit line is too narrow, the sidewalk can’t continue any farther east, and nobody’s yet figured how to get users safely to the northbound side of the heavily-trafficked West Front Street.

“At some point prior to the trestle, [the sidewalk] has to terminate,” Ettore said during a presentation on the bridge plan before the borough council last night. “Then, how do you cross?”

Why not blow a hole through the NJT embankment wide enough for the sidewalk, Councilwoman Grace Cangemi asked.

“Transit won’t allow the creation of new holes under the tracks,” replied borough administrator Stanley Sickels.

How about building an elevated walkway to join the north and south sidewalks at the bridge’s eastern end, asked resident Matt Downs of Mechanic Street.

That’s a possibility, Ettore seemed to suggest, but “at this point, we’ve not shown” that option on any plans, Ettore responded.

Both Ettore and Sickels sought to emphasize that the window of opportunity for ideas regarding the design of the bridge will be open for a long time. Last night’s presentation for the council, which follows recent similar events for the public, was aimed at eliciting a resolution in support of the general bridge concept favored by Ettore’s office — the so-called ‘preferred option.’

It calls for building a slightly curving new bridge just to the north of the existing 87-year-old structure, rather than building new on the same site or erecting a span absolutely parallel to the current one.

“This is like the first step,” Sickels said.

“We plan to continue the dialogue throughout the final design,” Ettore said.

The sidewalks will be six feet wide, Ettore said. The northern one will connect Rector Place in Red Bank with Hubbard Avenue in Middletown. The southern one will end opposite Hubbard Avenue, near Chris’ Deli. There’s no existing sidewalk there to meet up with.

Mayor Pasquale Menna indicated support for the county’s preferred plan, and no councilmembers voiced any objections to it.

In other transportation news out of last night’s session, the council:

• introduced an ordinance amendment to create a four-way stop, controlled by stop signs, at the intersection of Bridge Avenue and Chestnut Street.

• approved a resolution to apply for state Department of Transportation grant money to improve Chestnut Street between Maple Avenue and the NJT tracks.

• awarded a $1.75 million contract to A. Montone Construction for road construction in the current fiscal year.