Add our voice to those of the folks who are glad county officials have decided to keep one lane of the Longport bridge open during repairs that will begin later this year.
Officials made the right call this week after residents were given a chance to weigh in on the much-needed project to refurbish the 50-year-old John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge, which spans the Intracoastal Waterway between Longport and the Seaview Harbor section of Egg Harbor Township.
The issue was whether the bridge would be completely closed to traffic for more than three months during part of the $3.1 million project, or whether one lane would remain open with an alternating traffic flow, at the cost of extending work over two winters.
People attending an Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting Tuesday clearly supported keeping a lane of the bridge open. On Wednesday, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the county will do just that.
That means not only will the work take longer and be more expensive, but noisy heavy construction will take place during overnight hours. And even with a lane open, there will be long delays for motorists trying to use the bridge.
The fact that many residents of Margate, Longport, Ventnor, Egg Harbor Township and Somers Point are willing to put up with all that to keep the bridge open tells you how important it is to them.
This bridge is the most direct link between the Downbeach section of Absecon Island and Shore Medical Center in Somers Point.
There is no efficient detour. A suggested route, using Albany Avenue in Atlantic City, would have added more than 18 miles to the trip. A 12-mile detour, over the privately owned Margate bridge, would have required a toll of either $1.20 or $1.50.
And, as Margate Police Chief David Wolfson said Tuesday, the JFK bridge is also an important route during and after evacuations, a fact that became painfully clear as residents tried to return to Absecon Island after Hurricane Sandy.
Repairs to the 1,323-foot span will include patching the dangerously rutted road deck, resurfacing it with an epoxy sealer and strengthening I-beams by wrapping them in carbon fiber.
In 2011, the Federal Highway Administration said the bridge was 55 percent sufficient. The repairs should add another 25 years to its lifespan.
You don't have to look far to see what happens when important infrastructure is not maintained. Discussions about the nearby Beesleys Point Bridge, which used to carry Route 9 over the Great Egg Harbor Bay, now deal with the particulars of how it is going to be torn down. It is much too late to restore that span, but its closing in 2004, due to neglected maintenance, severed a popular link between Upper Township and Somers Point and certainly makes evacuation planning for Cape May County more difficult.
Despite the inconvenience, the work on the Longport bridge needs to be done - and the county has chosen the best way to do it by leaving one lane open at a time.