PED/BIKE RAMP PLANNED FOR NEW BRIDGE

Monmouth County Engineer Joe Ettore traces the path of the planned walkway, which continues off the proposed new bridge (in yellow) and up a series of ramps along the the west side of the rail line to Shrewsbury Avenue. Below, an elevation rendering of the bridge.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Monmouth County officials say they have solved the daunting sidewalk-to-nowhere conundrum they faced in designing a new bridge to connect Red Bank and Middletown at West Front Street.

The fix? Create a walk-and-bike path that will bypass the narrow rail trestle on the Red Bank side, Monmouth County Engineer Joe Ettore said Wednesday.

In what was billed as a preview of a fuller public presentation to come in the spring, Monmouth County Engineer Joe Ettore told Red Bank’s mayor and council that the revised plan for the new Hubbards Bridge also calls for a construction timetable that will detour traffic around the span for just three or four months of the projected 18-to-24-month buildout.

And when it’s all done, the borough will end up with a new parcel of green space overlooking the upper Navesink River, he said.

The new span, scheduled to go out for bid to contractors in the fall, is to replace a “temporary” steel span installed a decade ago, which is to be re-used elsewhere, Ettore said. Construction is expected to begin in early 2013, with at least one lane of the existing bridge remaining open, except for about four months toward the end of the project, when traffic will be routed to the nearby Cooper’s Bridge on Route 35.

That’s possible, he said, because the new bridge, while anchoring in the same places as the existing one, will be built slightly north of the current span.

The job is expected to cost in the vicinity of $12 million, and will be paid for completely by federal funding, Ettore said.

Ettore’s presentation was an update on one he gave in September, 2009, covered here by redbankgreen. That plan remains in effect, but with some new features.

• As previously proposed, the new two-lane bridge will have four-foot-wide shoulders and six-foot sidewalks on both sides. But under the former plan, the southern sidewalk was to have come to an abrupt end on the Red Bank side, because the narrowness of the train trestle there prohibited it from continuing to Shrewsbury Avenue. That would have forced walkers and bikers to cross the heavily trafficked bridge itself.

The solution, Ettore said, is for the county to acquire a strip of land adjoining the New Jersey Transit rail line from Red Bank Marina for the creation of a stepped series of ramps leading up to the railroad grade crossing on Shrewsbury Avenue. The ramps will comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessibility, he said.

“The biggest challenge is the grade,” he told reporters afterward. The sloping ramps will be interspersed with stretches of landing, he said.

The county hopes to acquire the land through negotiation from the marina’s owner. “He’s, unfortunately, severely impacted” by the project, Ettore said.

• Because a retaining wall alongside a residential property at the northwest corner of West Front and Rector Place was causing sight-line issues, the county has already acquired that property and plans to demolish the house there, Ettore said. The retaining wall will be removed and the property will be regraded to eliminate the issues, he said.

“The ability of the county to acquire that, we feel, is going to be a huge benefit to the 17,500 vehicles that cross that bridge every day,” he said.

When the project is completed, the parcel, less than a half acre in size, which has access to the riverfront beneath an adjoining rail bridge, will be deeded over to the borough for use as open space, Ettore said.

• The full closure of the existing span is expected to occur in early 2014, after the Christmas holidays of 2013, and in expectation of the bridge reopening before the start of the summer season, Ettore told the council. Afterward, he acknowledged to reporters that such a timetable would require the job to be completed in 18 months or less, rather than 24, and said the county was shooting for a closure period between February and April of 2014.

A public review session, with full construction drawing and a question-and-answer session, will be held, possibly at borough hall, sometime in April, Ettore said.

Elected officials praised the plan, and Ettore’s office for working with borough officials and keeping them apprised of changes. Mayor Pasquale Menna was effusive in thanking Ettore for minimizing the shutdown period, for his concern about green space, and for the architecture of the bridge, which will pick up on the brick and antique lamppost elements used by the state on the Cooper’s Bridge.

Councilman Mike DuPont said the plan “seems to promote not only transportation, but to create some pedestrian walkways and bikeways, with access to and from the river.”