Longport officials have some concerns over the proposed alternate-lane plan for work on the Longport bridge but said they would not stand in the way of Atlantic County’s plans, for now.
County Executive Dennis Levinson and Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica said the county will go forward with a $3.1 million plan that would keep one lane open, with traffic alternating in both directions, during the repair work on the JFK Memorial Bridge from September to April 2014 and the fall of 2014.
The plan was the overwhelming favorite of area residents and officials who attended a freeholder meeting Feb. 5 in Longport, over a plan that would have closed the bridge entirely.
Longport Mayor Nick Russo said Friday, however, that he still has concerns about the plan’s impact on three areas: traffic, construction noise — the alternate-lane plan involves 24-hour construction — and pollution from cars idling as they wait for their turn to head toward Somers Point.
“This is basically a project of Atlantic County, and the people have spoken in a public forum,” Russo said. “They wanted one lane open during the process, so we’re just going to have to (deal) the best we can. But my position is going to be that in the event these concerns come to the forefront once construction is started ... I’m going to recommend the construction process be revisited.”
Still, he said, “At this point, there’s no reason to believe these concerns will be an issue. Hopefully things will flow smoothly.”
Russo added that one resident had suggested the bridge have one lane open only in one direction, toward Somers Point, which Borough Engineer Richard Carter forwarded to the borough and county for consideration.
“When people (suggest) things, it’s our duty to at least look into it,” Russo said of the one-lane, one-direction idea. “But when we really examined it, we didn’t think that was what the public wanted.”
Fellow Longport Commissioner Dan Lawler, who attended the Feb. 5 meeting, said he prefers the alternate-lane plan.
“I don’t think (the one-way idea) is feasible,” Lawler said. “I don’t agree with that. If there’s one lane going out, you still have to get back, and it would take 18 miles to get back.”
Levinson said Friday that “I don’t see, under any circumstances, the alternative of just one lane out of Longport as a viable alternative. This is a major construction project. There’s going to be noise, there’s going to be increased (traffic). There’s no way around that. But from what I understand, dozens and dozens of individuals, including elected officials, agreed it should be kept open in two directions. ... I don’t know why this Johnny-come-lately concern is popping up now.”
The plan will be voted on by the Board of Chosen Freeholders when the specifications are finalized, Levinson said, and they will include the alternate-lane plan. He added that there will be penalties for contractors if there are overruns in time and expenses.
Contact Steven Lemongello:
Follow @SteveLemongello on Twitter