MARINA OWNER BRACES FOR BRIDGE SQUEEZE

“There’s no money for business interruption,” says Red Bank Marina owner Steve Remaley, below, who also stands to lose land on both sides of the bridge. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Steve Remaley is about to get it from all sides.

As Monmouth County nears its long-overdue replacement of Hubbard’s Bridge between Red Bank and Middletown starting early next year, the owner of Red Bank Marina is facing:

•• the loss of a large parcel of land, opposite his shop on West Front Street, where many of his customers park their vehicles and boat trailers

•• the loss of a strip of land on the marina’s main property for the creation of a new pedestrian and bike path to Shrewsbury Avenue

•• up to two years of diminished business, including a stretch of at least three months during which bridge traffic will be shut down entirely.

And that’s the best-case scenario.

“I have no idea what I’m in for,” Remaley tells redbankgreen, leaning on a boat being readied for spring and summer use. “This could be the best thing to ever happen to me, or the worst.”

A 2008 plan showing the new bridge, in red. (Click to enlarge)

The new, permanent bridge is expected to cost $12 million and will replace the “temporary” steel span in place since 2004. But unlike the straight path followed by the existing bridge, the replacement will take an arcing sweep toward the north, anchoring at the same points on either side of the Navesink River where it becomes the Swimming River.

The new alignment improves sightlines and safety for motorists, said county Engineer Joe Ettore. It also, coincidentally, allows for construction of most of the new structure without impacting traffic, except for the anticipated three to four months that will be needed to tie the bridge into the landing points, Ettore has said at two presentations on the project.

But it also means that Remaley will lose some 17,000 square feet of land, 12,000 of it underwater, on the north side of West Front Street. What’s not taken by the bridge will, along with a house acquired by the county at Rector Place and West Front, be deeded over to Red Bank for recreational use.

Remaley, who bought the marina in 2007 after years of running one in Oceanport, uses the parcel for boat storage, but the riparian rights he has there allow for the potential expansion of his operation, including the installation of a dock. In compensation, he’s getting a small amount of land on the south side.

“It’s not a fair exchange,” he said. “Everything I can do on this piece of property I can do over there. I can’t stop them from putting in a bridge, but marina properties are very valuable,” and he’s concerned he won’t get a fair price for the balance.

Remaley is also concerned, he said, about the sidewalk that will be built on the southern edge of the bridge. The county plans to acquire a strip of his property adjoining the New Jersey Transit railroad for the construction of a path to connect the bridge to Shrewsbury Avenue, south of the railroad grade crossing.

The existing bridge has a sidewalk only on the north side, and Remaley questions the logic of building one on the new structure, noting that the western terminus of it, near Chris’ Landing, does not meet a sidewalk, so pedestrians will be forced to cross to the north side anyway.

But Ettore said the new sidewalk, in addition to giving Middletown residents more direct access to the Red Bank train station, enhances safety for the marina’s customers.

Without the sidewalk on the south side of the bridge, “there’s no convenient place for someone to get access to the marina” from the northern side, said Ettore. “This way, there is complete access, safe access.”

Ettore said the southern sidewalk, estimated to cost about $750,000, “absolutely has a major functional purpose, which is to avoid a mid-block crossing, where there’s limited sight distance. And quite frankly, the old bifurcation of the marina property, almost necessitated that marina patrons who chose to park on the north side would have to cross mid-block.”

Remaley is worried, though, that the additional sidewalk there will now be more people crabbing from the bridge, and leaving trash behind. And while the bridge is under construction, he’s hoping that the boating channel to the broader Navesink remains open, or his business will suffer yet more.

“There’s no money for business interruption” in the sums that the county is offering in ongoing negotiations, he said.

Despite his many worries, though, Remayel said he’s not dead-set against the bridge.

“Maybe I won’t be affected that much,” he said, acknowledging the county’s goal of limiting the traffic shutdown to winter months, when his business is slow anyway.

And the new bridge will mean no more of the constant clanking of metal parts on the existing structure, he said.

“I’ll be glad because it won’t be so noisy,” he said.