New Jersey Department of Transportation officials have announced a new schedule for shuttle service across the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge in an effort to provide pedestrians and cyclists the ability to cross the bridge, now under repairs.
As part of the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project, the sidewalk that connects the mainland to Long Beach Island is closed to bicyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrian and bicyclists violating this temporary restriction are subject to fines under penalty of law.
To accommodate those wishing to go to LBI, a free shuttle bus will run from Marsha Drive in Stafford with a stop in the eastbound direction at Third Street on Bonnet Island. The shuttle bus will then return in the westbound direction, stopping at the public access parking lot on Bay Avenue immediately after the bridge crossing and will return to the shuttle stop at Marsha Drive.
Work on the $350 million Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge project began in 2013 and is expected to continue through 2020. The 3-mile-long Causeway links Stafford on the mainland with Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island but is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete after 57 years in existence.
A new bridge has been constructed parallel to the existing one over Manahawkin Bay. The new bridge currently carries two lanes of traffic in each direction while the existing bridge is being rehabilitated.
Once the project is completed, there will be two spans providing the safety of a redundant route on or off the Island in the event that one of the bridges needs to be closed or the Island needs to be evacuated because of storms or other emergencies. The existing Causeway sustained relatively minor damage during Superstorm Sandy, but storm damage is a concern especially because the bridge provides the only way for motor vehicles to enter or exit Long Beach Island.
The new bridge is 2,400 feet long with a vertical clearance of 55 feet over Manahawkin Bay. Ultimately, it will function as the bridge for eastbound traffic once the project is completed. This sequence was designed to preserve the current two travel lanes in each direction for the busy summer seasons from mid-May to mid-September during daytime hours and weekends. The contractor is allowed single-lane closures overnight and during the off-season, but one lane will always be maintained in each direction.
Construction of the new span was completed in May 2016, and the existing Causeway Bridge was closed for rehabilitation. Upon completion of the rehabilitation work, it will serve as the bridge for westbound traffic.
Completion of the entire project is scheduled for 2020. Details for all of the project’s contracts can be found on the DOT project website. The precise timing of the work is subject to change due to weather or other factors. Motorists are encouraged to check the DOT’s traffic information website, 511nj.org, for construction updates and real-time travel information; for DOT news, follow the department on Twitter, @NJDOT_info.