SEA ISLE CITY — A long-running joke about never-ending construction on the Townsends Inlet Bridge stopped being funny last month when the city announced the bridge would not be reopened before Memorial Day as previously planned.

The 27-span bridge, which connects Sea Isle and Avalon, has been closed since September for the replacement of the first seven spans on the Avalon side and the installation of new piling, pier caps, a concrete deck and a railing system.

Last month, the schedule was pushed back, with no set reopening date. And shop owners here seem fed up.

Claudine Turbedsky, owner of Coastal Palms Boutique on Landis Avenue, estimated 20 percent of the shop’s business comes from Avalon, and the drive inland to access either island is about 15 miles.

“There’s a lot of businesses here that depend on the people coming from Avalon, as well, to use our town, not only for restaurants but shopping, too,” she said.

Avalon businesses would be hurt, too, she said, by the loss of customers from the Townsends Inlet section of Sea Isle, who need to drive to the center of the city and then off the island to get to Avalon.

“It’s a headache is what it is,” Turbedsky said.

The plan to have the bridge reopened before the summer fell through, the city said, when they were informed by the Cape May County Engineer’s Office that unforeseen conditions arose that will require remedial work.

The work was contracted out to Agate Construction of Dennis Township for $8.6 million.

Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio, in a message posted to the city’s website, said a timeline would be available in the coming weeks.

“In the meantime, let’s hope for the best (including good weather to help workers stay on track),” Desiderio said, “and remain optimistic about the wonderful summer season that is headed our way.”

Tim Grant, owner of Breeze Scooters, sees the situation as a wash for his shop. He loses the business of vacationers from Avalon, but scooter riders have, in the past, been allowed to cross when cars are forbidden, giving him a small bump.

He still sees the absurdity in the interminable closures on the span.

“When they closed it right after Labor Day,” Grant said, “It was pretty much believed that that wasn’t going to happen. … Of course it didn’t.”

Optimism is hard to find with other owners expecting a dip in revenue.

“We definitely lose anything from Avalon because they have to go all the way around now,” said Sandra Martin, who runs Sisters Sweet Shoppe in Sea Isle with her sister Debbie.

And, she noted, people driving to Avalon from Strathmere in Upper Township or the opposite end of Sea Isle now won’t pass through their business corridor, situated just past JFK Boulevard, the main thoroughfare off the island.

Built around World War II with money from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Townsends Inlet Bridge is frequently closed for repairs.

The Federal Highway Administration classifies the bridge as structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.

“It’s a problem. It’s always been a problem,” Martin said. “For five years, we’ve been here. This is our sixth year. And it’s always been an issue.”

Contact: 609-272-7260 Twitter @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

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