Traffic was heavy on Bridge Avenue and other roads surrounding Hubbard’s Bridge during Wednesday’s morning rush. Below, an unidentified worker carries a granite block, one of many such paving stones and old red bricks unearthed during the first day of work on the intersection on the Red Bank side of the span. (Photo below by Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
That’s one spin that officials put on a two-to-three-week closure of the span that was announced late last Friday and took effect Wednesday morning.
Red Bank Administrator Stanley Sickels said the borough learned of Monmouth County’s plan to shut down the bridge and the two busy intersections at either end just last Wednesday, less than three months after the new $21.9 million span opened following a five-month shutdown of the existing bridge.
The reason for the latest closure? Utility giant JCP&L “had not yet pulled electrical conduit through the bridge, as they were supposed to during the previous closure,” Sickels told the audience at a borough council meeting Wednesday night.
The cables run overhead on poles alongside the old bridge, and were to have been strung underneath the new span, he said.
At an “emergency” meeting of county, local and JCP&L officials held in Middletown, county officials ran through various options for scheduling the work, including one that would keep one, alternating-direction lane of traffic flowing at all times, Sickels said. But hat option, he said, “would result on a much longer delay” before the work was completed.
Because of the additional need to rebuild the intersections at either end of the West Front Street span, it made more sense to do all the work in one concentrated closure, Sickels said.
The kicker, he said, was the approach of the new school year, and concern that lingering bridge and intersection work would again impact student and teacher commutes.
“It was felt that the fastest way to get the work done before school reopens,” Sickels said. “Close it for the shortest duration and get it done.”
In addition to impacts on motorists, the closure hits several businesses located within a zone of barricades that are not accessible by car for the duration, including Red Bank Marina, Delfini Gourmet Catering and the G&G Hot Dog truck.
“We apologize that this had to happen,” Sickels said.
County officials said in a statement last Friday that additional work on the new bridge will remain to be done after the relocation of the utility lines. The 10-year-old “temporary” span it replaced will also be dismantled for future use elsewhere, they have said.
Final completion is scheduled for next April, but county officials are “hopeful that by permitting the contractor to close the bridge for this two week period, the project can be finalized ahead of schedule,” Freeholder Tom Arnone said in a statement.