Cape May County, concerned that the Townsends Inlet Bridge is far behind schedule in reopening to vehicular traffic, is moving on the contractor’s bond to assure the work is completed next month, officials said Wednesday.

Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster said the county has contacted the contractor’s bonding company “to assure the completion of the work in a timely manner” and that “the assessment of liquidated damages is being considered.” The bonding company “wields a great deal of power over a contractor,” Foster said, adding defaulting on a bond could “hamper the contractor’s ability to seek future public contracts.’

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The contractor, Mugrose of West Caldwell, is having difficulty with installing gears on the movable span but is making “a good faith effort” to complete the job, Foster said. If necessary, he said, work that can be performed while the bridge is closed to traffic can be completed in the next off-season.

That would be the fourth consecutive winter the bridge was closed to traffic. It was closed in 2012-13 following Hurricane Sandy and in the last two winters as work on a $4.4 million upgrade was undertaken.

On Tuesday, Sea Isle City Business Administrator George Savastano told council that the bridge, closed since Jan. 12, will remain closed to vehicular traffic until June 19. The bridge reopening, delayed repeatedly, faces a June 20 date to be ready for the resumption of New Jersey Transit use, Councilman Bill Kehner

The Townsends Inlet Bridge connects the southern end of Sea Isle City to the northern end of Avalon. A 2.5-mile commute from Sea Isle City to Avalon that would normally take 5 minutes for Denise Paul, who is living in the south end of Sea Isle, had grown to six times that with the construction project on the bridge and on Sea Isle Boulevard, the main coastal evacuation route for the barrier island.

Paul reported that over the Memorial Day weekend, her commute expanded from 30 minutes for the 15-mile trip to an hour as traffic backups stretched more than a mile in some places.

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First female hired in the history of The Press sports department (April 1980). I've been a news editor, food editor and reporter, and have interviewed Muhammad Ali, several Miss Americas and chefs who have cooked for presidents and royalty.

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