Call it a little unexpected gift for Rumson-Fair Haven area residents — and many more.
Just when you thought it was closed for a few weeks that many dreaded, the Oceanic Bridge will be open for the weekend.
Why the unexpected respite from complete closure? Monmouth County officials explained it in the following press release:
“Since 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, around the clock work to repair bearings on the north side of the Oceanic Bridge (S-31) has been under way; the work has progressed on schedule and will be shifting to the south side at 6 a.m. on Monday, June 1.
‘This affords us a unique opportunity to open the Oceanic Bridge to traffic on Saturday evening, May 30, and all day and night Sunday, May 31,’ said Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone, liaison to the Department of Public Works and Engineering. ‘I have spoken with our contractor, Harms Construction, who anticipates shifting the repair operation to the other side of the bridge late Saturday afternoon; we have agreed to open the bridge to all traffic by Saturday evening.’
Harms Construction Co. Inc. of Howell will resume work at 6 a.m. Monday, June 1 on the south side of the structure that spans the Navesink River and connects Rumson to Middletown. Harms crews will be working 24 hours a day, in two 12-hour shifts, to have the work completed by June 12.
The Oceanic Bridge has been closed to all but marine traffic since 6 a.m. Tuesday, May 26. For marine traffic, seasonal rules and scheduling are in effect.
‘A previous Oceanic Bridge repair project revealed deterioration in two areas not readily or previously accessible,’ said Arnone. ‘Two of the bridge’s four main bearings support the bascule and flanking spans on the bridge approaches.’
Ettore explained that the nature of the repair work requires that the bridge load be relieved by lifting the bascule and approach spans off of each bearing and that the bearing work must be completed to maintain public safety and the use of the Oceanic Bridge.
‘It is prudent to lift the bridge spans and perform the repairs to all four of the bearings,’ said Ettore. ‘The bearings in need of immediate repair are on the eastern side of the bridge, but the County is also going to repair the bearings on the western side of the bridge.’
The 2,712-foot drawbridge crosses the Navesink River and serves beach, commercial and residential traffic, as well as pedestrian and bicycle travel. It is also a key route for coastal evacuations and emergency vehicles headed to hospitals or providing mutual aid. The bridge has been classified as structurally deficient.
Built in 1939, the Oceanic Bridge has deteriorated due to decades of exposure to saltwater and from accommodating heavier vehicles and traffic volumes than for which it was designed.
In 2012, Monmouth County completed extensive work to rehabilitate the bridge’s 100-foot, center bascule span, allowing motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to continue use of the bridge.
Monmouth County received notification from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) Board of Trustees in January that $600,000 in federal funding was available to perform a Concept Development Study for the replacement or rehabilitation of the Oceanic Bridge.
‘As the years have gone on, maintaining this bridge has become more costly and difficult,’ said Arnone, a NJTPA Board member. ‘This grant will allow us to look to the future and take steps toward building a better bridge, one that will stand up to the extreme coastal storms we’ll face and serve our modern travel needs.’
Monmouth County plans to replace the Oceanic Bridge in the next ten years.