The South Jersey Transportation Authority may close two local bridges over the Atlantic City Expressway for repairs this summer, forcing drivers to find new routes.
The Cologne Avenue bridge in Hamilton Township and the Fire Road bridge in Egg Harbor Township were expected to close in early June and reopen by September, said Kevin M. Rehmann, the SJTA's security and operations manager.
But that may change, after Hamilton Township formally objected with a resolution Monday night, citing public safety concerns.
The Cologne Volunteer Fire Company firehouse is adjacent to the bridge, and volunteers who live on the other side of the Expressway would have to detour several miles — taking up to 10 minutes — to get to the station. Once there they would repeat the journey to respond to calls in the township’s Black Horse Pike shopping corridor.
“They did not give any consideration to emergency traffic,” Mayor Amy Gatto said at Monday’s meeting.
After hearing the objections, the SJTA now will consider doing the work in phases, rather than closing the Cologne Avenue bridge, Rehmann said.
“We certainly want to be good neighbors,” Rehmann said. “It may not change anything, but it may.”
At Monday’s Hamilton Township meeting, Frank J. Seney Jr., the manager of the transportation and bridge department of the SJTA’s engineering firm, Remington & Vernick, said the Cologne Avenue bridge is only 34 feet wide, making staging difficult.
In Egg Harbor Township, Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said the closing was expected, and typical for expressway bridge repairs. But Peter Miller, township administrator, said he was unaware of the planned closing of Fire Road.
The SJTA is implementing a $2.7 million project to remove and reconstruct the surface on four bridges, including two bridges on New Brooklyn Road and Williamstown-Winslow Road in Camden County. The bridges are about 50 years old, Seney said.
South State Inc. of Bridgeton is on the agenda for Wednesday’s SJTA’s meeting to formally win the contract for the Fire Road and Cologne Avenue bridges, at a cost not to exceed $931,261.
Rehmann said the SJTA postponed voting on the contract by a month to ensure that local officials were aware of the closings.
“It's quicker to do it in one shot and close it completely, rather than do it one lane at a time,” Rehmann explained on Monday. The contract calls for the work to be done in 75 days. He said, "If we were to do it one lane at a time it would take twice that."
But after a reporter with The Press of Atlantic City asked the SJTA to comment on the township’s objections, SJTA Deputy Executive Director Sam Donalson contacted township Mayor Amy Gatto and Administrator Michael Jacobs late Monday, Gatto said.
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