The Townsends Inlet Bridge, expected to reopen in time for the Memorial Day weekend, won’t be accessible to traffic for another two or three weeks, officials said Wednesday.
The bridge, which connects the southern end of Sea Isle City to the northern end of Avalon, will remain closed and in the locked upright position, allowing boats to pass through the navigational channel beneath the bridge.
That strikes many motorists as unfair, said Andy Paul, whose wife, Denise, is inconvenienced five times a week by the need to add extra miles to her commute from her Sea Isle City residence to her job in Avalon. Fewer boats navigate that area than vehicles, he said.
Paul said his wife’s quick commute has increased about sixfold, from 2.5 miles and 5 minutes to 15 miles and 30 minutes due to construction projects. He said she must travel from 63rd Street in Sea Isle to City off the island onto Sea Isle Boulevard, which is in the midst of a six-year construction project, and out to Route 9, then south toward Avalon before accessing that barrier island via Avalon Boulevard.
“It’s bad planning, if you ask me,” he said of the dual construction projects.
The Townsends Inlet Bridge is undergoing a $4.4-million, multi-year upgrade. Sea Isle Boulevard is being raised 4.5 feet at a cost of $12.7 million. Both have been under construction simultaneously for most of the winter and spring.
Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster said the contractor, Mugrose Construction, Inc., of West Caldwell, was unable to replace gears and racks on the bridge in time to permit the operation of the movable span by the holiday weekend. The work was complicated by the deep pitted rusting of the existing steel, Foster said.
“While it is disappointing that the Townsends Inlet Bridge is not available for use over Memorial Day Weekend, we must use caution to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the bridge,” Foster said.
Once the new equipment and wiring is installed, Foster said the control system will require a testing period to ensure proper operation before the bridge is reopened. That could push the reopening of the span to mid-June.