SEA BRIGHT NIXES HONKIN’ BIG BRIDGE SIGNS

rt-36-bridgeHighlands and Sea Bright officials don’t favor DOT plans to install signs that hang over the Route 36 bridge, shown here in November. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It wasn’t that long ago that advocates of keeping that troublesome bridge that once linked Sea Bright to Highlands pooh-poohed the idea of constructing a new, larger once because it didn’t fit in with the landscape of the area.

Now, that the new Route 36 bridge is kind of here — the Sea Bright-to-Highlands section is complete, with the rest targeted to be done in 2011 — officials are echoing that old cry, with a plea to halt signs the state Department of Transportation intends to install, saying that they’re more useful for the Garden State Parkway or New Jersey Turnpike.

Referred to by traffic engineers as ‘cantilever signs,’ they’re usually shamrock green, reflective and hang over the roadway indicating what towns and traffic routes lie ahead. Also: big.

The Highlands Borough Council logged the first complaint about the proposed signage at a meeting with DOT officials (from which you can see in the minutes on Sea Bright’s website) and is sending a letter to the agency expressing how turned off it is by the notion of the signs hanging over the bridge.

Sea Bright, in turn, is getting behind its neighbors by sending its own letter, and town officials hope to have a sit-down with DOT officials to sway its decision to a something more view-friendly.

“Highlands feels (the signs) are better suited for the Turnpike and Parkway,” Sea Bright Council President William Keeler explained. “They feel if you’re driving over the bridge it’s going to impede the view.”

The DOT is planning to install two of these hulking signs on each side of the bridge, to read “Rt. 36 South/Sea Bright” and “Sandy Hook” when approaching from the north, and “Route 36 West/Keyport” and “Bay Avenue/Highlands” when coming from the south.

Keeler said Sea Bright and Highlands would both prefer something more modest, and rather than have the signs blocking out the Atlantic Ocean or the hilly vista of Highlands, signs installed on the sides of the bridge would be more satisfying.

In related bridge news, the pedestrian path is set to be open by the end of the month, Keeler said. Also, the old bridge is scheduled to be demolished next week.