Beesleys Point Bridge

Beesleys Point Bridge on Feb 6, 2013.

Dale Gerhard

WOODBRIDGE — Crews will begin dismantling the Beesleys Point Bridge in June, officially putting an end to the life of the overpass that has sat unused for nearly a decade.

At about the same time, work will begin on construction of a new southbound span of the Garden State Parkway bridge over Great Egg Harbor Bay, officials said. The work is tied to a $130 million construction contract awarded by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority on Tuesday to Route 52 Constructors, of York, Pa.

Earlier this year, complications with environmental permitting issues for the project threatened to cause delays, but those issues have since been resolved. The authority is still awaiting a U.S. Coast Guard permit for the project but doesn’t anticipate any issues with that final step, officials said.

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Tuesday’s award brings the total cost of the project to about $230 million. Permitting, design and tree-clearing contracts were awarded previously. A resurfacing contract for the northbound span of the bridge has yet to be awarded, NJTA spokesman Tom Feeney said.

The total cost of the project is far lower than the $280 million estimate Turnpike Authority engineers initially gave. Savings were realized as the construction contract awarded Tuesday came in significantly under the anticipated $185 million. Four of the seven bids received were in the $130 million range, according to authority documents.

Feeney said it’s hard to determine why the bids were so low, but he noted that the authority has seen that trend with a number of projects lately.

“It’s usually a reflection of the market. When there is not a lot of work, there is greater competition among contractors,” Feeney said.

While work will begin in June, it will be years before construction is finished. June 2016 is the anticipated completion date. The long timeframe is due, in part, to the fact that permits only allow the authority to work in the water between June and January each year, which is necessary for foundation work, officials said.

NJTA Chief Engineer Richard Raczynski said he anticipates that the Beesleys bridge, which dates to the 1920s, should should be torn down by the end of the year based on the amount of work involved. However, there is nothing written into the contract that would force the contractor to abide by that timeframe, he said.

Construction of the new southbound span of the parkway bridge isn’t expected to affect any traffic patterns on the highway. The new span will be constructed to the west of the existing bridges. Once work is complete, the old span plagued with rust and cracks — which dates to 1955 — will be removed.

The new span will include a path for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as three lanes and a shoulder. The current southbound section has two lanes and no shoulder. The northbound section of the bridge was constructed in 1973 and will be refurbished.

Beesleys Point Bridge, shut off to traffic since 2004 due to structural deficiencies, became intertwined with the parkway project when Turnpike Authority officials were looking for a way to fulfill environmental mitigation obligations.

State regulations require that new construction be offset by various types of environmental remediation in the same general area. By shouldering much of the cost of the demolition, the authority will receive mitigation credits for returning a wetlands area to an undisturbed state.

Cape May County purchased the roadway that connects Upper Township and Somers Point for $1 in 2008 with intentions of restoring it. When those costs skyrocketed, plans were abandoned.

The county initially planned to remove the drawbridge separately — about a $1 million project for which the county would have been eligible to receive federal funding. The county’s portion of the project wasn’t completed as expected due to delays resulting from Hurricane Sandy. Instead, the Turnpike Authority has included the drawbridge removal in its contract with the expectation of being reimbursed, Raczynski said.

This is the second major project the Turnpike Authority has recently committed to in South Jersey. Earlier this year work began on a $125 million project to eliminate the only three traffic lights on the parkway, all in Cape May County. Full interchanges replacing the lights will be constructed at Crest Haven Road, Stone Harbor Boulevard, and Shell Bay Avenue in the project expected to be complete in 2015.

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