SEA ISLE CITY — There may be an end in sight for the frustrations shared by business owners, residents and vacationers here and in neighboring Avalon.
The Townsends Inlet Bridge, the tentative reopening of which was pushed in the spring from Memorial Day weekend to late summer, will now be open for traffic “on or about July 30,” according to the Cape May County engineer.
It’s no guarantee, though.
“While we have a reasonable level of confidence supporting this earlier date, there remain a number of critical construction activities to be completed in the next three weeks that could have an impact on the final completion date,” Robert Church said.
Sandra Martin, who owns Sisters Sweet Shoppe on Landis Avenue with her sister, said the announcement, should it come to fruition, “would be fantastic.”
Driving inland to get from Avalon to Sea Isle can be a 25-minute drive, she said.
“The sooner the better,” Martin said. “And it’s a big deterrent, too, because (customers are) not gonna come if they have to do that.”
The bridge closed in September for the replacement of the first seven spans (of 27) on the Avalon side, and the addition of new piling, pier caps, a concrete deck and a railing system.
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The work was contracted out to Agate Construction of Dennis Township for $8.6 million.
Originally expected to reopen for Memorial Day weekend, it was announced in March that “unforeseen conditions” made that timeframe untenable. And in April, the Cape May County Bridge Commission announced it was eyeing a late summer reopening.
James McDevitt, a manager at Hank Sauce on Landis Avenue, said the closure hurt business more in the winter, when they were open weekends and the customer base was smaller. Overall, he said he’d rather the county quit the cycle of patchwork repairs to the toll bridge, which has been operating since around World War II and was built with funds from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and rebuild it.
“Obviously, it’s gonna be a good thing when it’s back sooner than later,” McDevitt said. “We’d still like to make sure it’s not re-closing every summer. So it’d be nice if they just redid the whole thing … just to keep business here.”
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Frequent closings of the bridge over the years have become something of an inside joke among Sea Isle residents. But for now, many are just happy to hear the bridge will likely be reopened with some summer to spare.
Aided by “more favorable weather conditions,” Church said they expect the framing components of the refurbishment to be completed by June 8 and the bridge deck surface to be completely poured by June 21.
The addition of “final bridge components,” including sidewalks and railing, will follow.
“The county has worked cooperatively with the contractor and engineering teams in order to advance quality work as quickly and responsibly as possible,” Church said. “Additionally, we continue to explore options to consolidate the construction schedule by permitting contract work to proceed concurrently where feasible.”
Repairs to the Townsends Inlet Bridge connecting Sea Isle City and Avalon will not be comple…
Tim Grant, owner of Breeze Scooters on Landis Avenue, said Sea Isle was “swamped” over Memorial Day weekend, so it was tough to quantify the impact of the bridge’s closing on business.
“But some of my renters did have to go to Avalon and they went offshore,” Grant said, “which I don’t recommend on those bikes.”
During past repair closings, Grant said, scooters have been allowed over the closed bridge, giving his business a small bump. This time around, he lost out on his favorite path.
“For me, the ride to Avalon is my favorite ride, and I always try to tell people to go that way,” Grant said, “so if it is open earlier … I’d be happy with that move.”