LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Work will start next month to replace the Osborn Island bridge, a $6.7 million Ocean County project 15 years in the making.

Stakeholders from the county, township and utility companies held a pre-construction meeting last week to finalize details and a timeline, officials said Friday.

Residents on Osborn Island have been waiting about 15 years for a new bridge to the township’s Mystic Island section, the only way on and off Osborn Island.

The island has about 450 homes and 300 full-time residents, said Joe Summers, of the Osborn Island Residents Association.

The existing two-lane, wooden bridge built in 1964, rebuilt in 1981 and rehabilitated in 1995 has reached the end of its functional life, county reports state. The timber in the existing bridge’s wooden piles are functionally obsolete and deteriorated.

Contractor Marbro Inc., of Montclair, Essex County, has 270 days from the start of the project to complete the work but is expected to be finished by December 2013, said Lucas Praski, Ocean County principal engineer.

Marbro is also completing a project for a new spillway at Tuckerton Lake on Route 9 in neighboring Tuckerton, Assistant Township Administrator Michael Fromosky said.

Praski said the cost of the project has increased from the initial price of $5 million in May 2011. The state Department of Transportation provided $1 million to Ocean County toward the project in July.

A water moratorium imposed by the state Department of Environmental Protection due to fish migration extended the project timeline because contractors will be prevented from working in the water, Praski said.

“The township MUA (Municipal Utilities Authority) will be starting work first by moving utilities and gas lines, and then Verizon will then start work,” Fromosky said.

The county Engineering Department had originally planned to start work on the bridge earlier this year, but in July 2011 the department was still working on obtaining project permits from the DEP.

“There are always issues with getting permits from the DEP, and we had a lengthy process to get the permits,” Praski said.

Although the price of the project has increased, Praski said, design details have not changed since last year.

The new bridge will feature two 12-foot lanes, 8-foot shoulders and one sidewalk. It will include concrete decking and concrete, steel-filled piles. It also is designed to be higher in different areas to curtail flooding.

Gary Rizzolo, president of the Osborn Island Residents Association, said that for the past nine years since he moved to the island, he and his neighbors have waited for bridge work to begin.

“We’re very excited about getting the new bridge, and it will add to the beauty of the island,” Rizzolo said. “It hasn’t been too frustrating for me because I knew they were waiting for the funding. It didn’t hinder us getting on or off the island.”

The bridge was old and decrepit and had been hit a few times by barges, but had been repaired, he said.

Once work begins on the bridge, the roadway will not be closed. Two lanes of traffic will be maintained during staged construction, with no detours.

“Because of the disruption to residents who live on the island, and it’s only one way on and one way off, police will be in the area,” Fromosky said.

Contact Donna Weaver:

609-226-9198

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