The stage is set to move forward with a revamp or replacement of the 60-year-old failing Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge, but plans are only conceptual proposals at this point and a price tag on the project is far from being set, officials said at a recent meeting.
If all goes according to plan, though, needs could be assessed and pinpointed, estimates generated and federal funds freed for construction to start in 2016.
Technically, the project is in what has been dubbed the concept development phase.
As part of that phase, stakeholders sat down with state and county officials, architects, environmentalists and engineers at Holy Cross School in Rumson on Tuesday to gauge “draft concept” preferences from 10 different options. It was the second of such meetings. A third is slated for October.
Martine Culbertson, a county-contracted “community involvement facilitator,” ran the meeting, placing two to three of 13 project engineers and state or county officials at each of five tables to explain bridge replacement and revamp options and interact and digest stakeholder feedback. Stakeholders are members of the communities affected, such as nearby residents, emergency responders, local officials and area business people.
There are some project particulars, based on overwhelming feedback and feasibility assessments, that will automatically be factored into all options: allowances for bike and pedestrian walkways, keeping the drawbridge and an anticipated 75-year lifespan for bridge replacement.
While a bridge revamp is an option, it is not considered a feasible one. And, a fixed span is not being considered as an option.
The goal is to get federal funding to foot the bill for the project. But, right now, state Department of Transportation officials and the engineers crafting the plan options cannot say what the cost may be.
For Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long and other Sea Bright stakeholders, the most favored conceptual draft for the project was one that calls for building a temporary replacement drawbridge “completely off line” from the existing bridge, meaning right next to the existing bridge, with two lanes eastbound, one lane westbound and intersection improvements on the Sea Bright side, such as sidewalks and islands.
That temporary bridge would be constructed on a north alignment. There would be no temporary bridge detours or minor detour times (of about three months maximum). The concept also calls for a cul-de-sac to 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 that draft plan.
This option can be accomplished in one stage of construction, according to the concept. The temporary alignment plan would be similar to that of the West Front Street Bridge.
Rumson stakeholders favored a concept that would call for a drawbridge replacement “on an alignment to the south of the existing bridge,” according to the draft. With this option, there would be no temporary bridge and construction would be done in two stages, “to minimize impact.” Construction phasing would be similar to that of the Highlands-Sea Bright (Route 36) Bridge.
It would be built one half at a time with detours and traffic shifted from side to side as the work is done. It takes longer.
This bridge option, the draft said, calls for “six-foot sidewalks along both sides of the bridge, two 12-foot eastbound lanes, one 12-foot westbound lane, and 8-foot outside shoulders in both directions … East of the bridge, the Route 36 and Rumson Road signalized intersection will be shifted to the south to accommodate the new alignment of the bridge. The configuration of the intersection will be maintained …”
That draft plan predicts minimal impacts.
Engineers and state and county officials stressed that there is nothing definite about any of conceptual drafts and that any one of the plans can be altered to suit stakeholders’ and the area’s needs.
This phase of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge project is slated for completion in April of 2013. The preliminary engineering phase is expected to last another 18 months. And, barring complications or unforeseen factors, construction would start somewhere around the fall of 2016.
The last assessment of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge’s condition placed it in a “serious” category, but it has not yet reached a condition that would require weight limits to be lowered. It can still be traversed by emergency vehicles.