It could be as far as a decade away, yet the prospect of replacing the ailing 62-year-old Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge has people poised for and bucking some of the changes it may bring.
Area residents were out in force last week at the Rumson public forum at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School on the years-away project now in what's been deemed its conceptual development phase.
A preferred plan out of roughly a dozen drafts has surfaced. It's a melding of what were deemed the top two proposals at a meeting of stakeholders in June.
The plan would, essentially, call for a realigned similarly designed drawbridge with four lanes rather than the existing two, increased and beautified walking paths and islands, a cul-de-sac, a smaller park (or creation of a "triangle" near the playground section) on the Rumson side and a lopping off of the existing Dunkin' Donuts and possibly Anchorage Apartments on the Sea Bright side.
The cul-de-sac would be built “at the Rumson Road leg of the intersection to eliminate the fifth leg of the intersection. The existing substandard horizontal curve through the intersection will be eliminated, and intersection sight distance will be improved,” according to one of the favored draft plans presented at the stakeholders meeting.
There would be no temporary bridge built on a parallel alignment, due to high cost implications; and the construction would be completed in one phase of an estimated two-year rebuild.
While the bridge can still handle the tonnage of emergency vehicles and does not yet warrant a weight limit, it is still deemed in "serious" condition. Monmouth County Engineer Joseph Ettore said the idea with these plans is to be prepared and ready to stave off such a situation.
As it stands, he said, the bridge is structurally deficient with rust, corrosion and electrical deficiencies. Yet, there is no weight limit on it at this point, as with the Oceanic Bridge, which has a posted 15-ton cut-off. "What we're trying to do is be proactive, so that when the (federal) money becomes available, we're there," Ettore said.
The replacement will more than likely come in the form of another drawbridge. "This one, yes, is eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places," Ettore said. So, it's original design is a contender for preservation, as well.
While fixed span options were presented, they were rebuffed without much feasibility analysis, if any, because a fixed span design just wouldn't fit in the spot over the Shrewsbury River.
That was and has been a relief to many who have opted for a more in-character, close-to-original design. And there were other concerns.
Right off the bat, Rumson residents objected to what they said were traffic implications and the neighborhood intrusiveness potential of a cul-de-sac. They weren't too pleased with the notion of cutting the West Park's park at the foot of the Rumson side down in size, either. And they questioned kids' safety in the area with all that action in one spot and summer traffic, especially.
But, Ettore stressed, "This is why we are asking for input now. Nothing is set in stone. This is only the concept development phase (which will close in April). We have to review all of the input and then consult with the two primary agencies involved in the phase, the NJ DOT (Department of Transportaton) and the NJ Transportation Planning Authority, as well as Rumson and Sea Bright officials."
Following that process thoroughly makes it more likely that the federal government will fund the project. It must pass the muster of state entities first in order for eligibility or even review on the federal funding level. But, Ettore said, there is still always the possibility that it could end up being rejected.
The goal is to attain 100 percent federal funding from the Federal Highway Authority. "At this point, this phase has been funded with federal dollars," said Martine Culbertson, a county-contracted “community involvement facilitator." After this, it's a gamble, she said. That is why, Ettore said, county officials are doing all they can to make sure all federal standards for such a process are lived up to "in order to successfully secure the funds needed."
To submit comments and input, which county officials are highly encouraging, visit the county website or mail comments to Inkyung Englehart, Project Coordinator, Monmouth County Department of Public Works and Engineering, Hall of Records Annex, 3rd floor, One East Main Street, Freehold, NJ 07728. Fax comments to 732-431-7765. Or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.