SEVEN-MONTH DETOUR STARTS MONDAY

oceanic-bridge-091911The Oceanic Bridge will get a new drawbridge, replacing a 72-year-old segment that’s heavily corroded, officials say. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Work to replace the steel drawbridge portion of the Oceanic Bridge is slated to get underway Monday with detours that are expected to frustrate motorists from Middletown and Rumson for seven months.

Monmouth County officials say they hope to complete the replacement of the two-leaf bascule center of the 2,700-foot-long span – the county’s longest – by Memorial Day next year.

In the interim, however, the bridge will be closed. Off limits. Out of commission.

For some motorists, that will mean miles-long detours to the nearest waterway crossings at the Cooper Bridge  between Middletown and Red Bank; the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge; and the new Captain Joe Azzolina Bridge between Highlands and Sea Bright.

And for owners of businesses that rely on bridge traffic, it’s expected to hit the cash register.

The timing of the project was selected to minimize the adverse economic impact, which would be worse with a summer closing, county officials say.

Steve Bidgood of the Salt Creek Grille and Donnie Woodham, manager of Rumson Wine & Spirits, say they expect a drop in business. But each is being proactive in an effort to offset the impact.

Salt Creek, which gets an estimated 15 percent of its business from the north side of the Navesink River, is planning to do three waves of mailings to addresses there offering discounted dinners. The restaurant, located at the Rumson anchorage of the bridge, has also posted alternate directions on its website for patrons to share with their guests.

The liquor store, meanwhile, is emphasizing its delivery service, and will try to gang up deliveries that go to the other side of the river, Woodham said.

“We won’t deliver a six pack and a pack of smokes, but most of our customers order wine or liquor by the case,” he said.

Woodham and Bidgood said that, like many of their customers, they are accepting of the inconvenience the job will create.

“It is what it is,” Woodham said.

The bascule replacement “will give us another seven or eight years” of useful life before the entire bridge is expected to need replacing, said Bidgood. “Repairing it is important.”

Bidgood said he’s been assured that the construction timetable has about eight weeks of bad-weather provisions included, and that the contractor on the project will be working under incentives to finish it early and penalties for tardiness.

Woodham, though, is dubious that the job will be wrapped up before the start of summer. “As long as it’s ready by Fourth of July, I’ll be happy,” he tells redbankgreen.

Here’s a video of county Engineer Joe Ettore and Freeholder John Curley being interviewed about the plan.