Since it was built in 1958, the Route 72 causeway has been the only way on or off the island. The 57-year-old bridge had cracks in its structural supports, inadequate shoulders and walkways and poor lighting.
The Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project involves the construction of a new structure parallel to and south of the existing Manahawkin Bay Bridge, rehabilitation of the existing Manahawkin Bay Bridge, and the rehabilitation of three trestle bridges over Hilliard’s Thorofare, East Thorofare, and West Thorofare. Other planned improvements include:
- A six-foot sidewalk on the westbound (north) side of Route 72, with connections to communities and points of interest on the south side of the roadway;
- Bicycle accommodations, including wider outside shoulders on the twin Manahawkin Bay Bridges and six-foot bike lanes on the trestle bridges;
- Improvements to the intersection of Route 72 and Marsha Drive in Stafford Township to alleviate seasonal traffic delays; and
- Intersection improvements in Ship Bottom, designed to improve traffic flow for both north/south traffic on Long Beach Island and along 8th and 9th Streets, and drainage improvements to improve access during heavy rainfalls and high tides.
Construction of the new bridge just south of the existing span started in May of 2013, completion is expected sometime early 2016. At that time the original bridge, which has been deemed structurally deficient and structurally obsolete, will be closed for rehabilitation.
Today when you cross the bridge you will see the construction of the parallel bridge as well as excavation of the Forsythe Reserve. This excavation is to ensure that any marine creatures that were disturbed during construction will have a new habitat. According to Charles Bassano, resident engineer for the Rt. 72 bridge project. “A tidal low land and upland will be created not only to house our local marine life but create a recreation area where locals and visitors alike can come and take in nature and learn about local marine life. Thousands of plants and trees will be planted and park benches and story boards will be placed throughout the area.”
Completion of the total project is expected in 2020. After completion both bridges will have wide shoulders that can accommodate bicyclists. The old bridge will have 2 lanes of westbound traffic and a sidewalk protected by a barrier for pedestrians. Two lanes on the new bridge will bring traffic east onto the island in Ship Bottom.
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