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From today's AC Press:

Builder asks $243M. for O.C. bridge project
By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer, (609) 463-6712
Published: Friday, December 9, 2005
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2005

OCEAN CITY-Three companies bid Thursday on the mammoth Route 52 causeway replacement, one of the most ambitious transportation projects New Jersey has ever undertaken.

With a bid of $243 million, Granite Halmar Construction of Mount Vernon, N.Y., was the apparent low bidder for the first half of construction. Under this phase, the state will build two parallel and elevated bridges 1.2 miles between Elbow and Garrett islands.

The second phase of construction will complete the 2.5-mile-long twin elevated spans linking the mainland in Somers Point to the barrier island of Ocean City. At 35 feet high, the twin bridges will resemble those linking the Florida Keys.

The second phase will include a new Ocean City Welcome Center, fishing piers and a boat ramp, among other amenities.

"We're very, very anxious to get this project started," Somers Point Mayor Dan Reilly said. "The sooner it's started, the better. It will mean a lot to us to improve a main artery into town, especially the unsafe condition of the traffic circle."

The state is putting the bridge expense on its credit card. The DOT plans to borrow at least $370 million to replace the Route 52 causeway with the elevated bridges.

This will mark the first time the state employs this funding strategy, in which the DOT uses the promise of federal transportation money as collateral under a process called Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles.

Work is expected to begin early next year with completion by 2010.

Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster said the state likely will save money by borrowing money now instead of waiting - possibly years - for federal funding. Construction prices are climbing faster than the interest rate, he said. Meanwhile, the improvements are needed now, he said.

"It gives Ocean City a roadway that can be used in any weather event. It also gives a secure feeling to motorists," he said. "The existing causeway has had a lot of maintenance problems."

The causeway was closed intermittently this year when one of two drawbridges would not close completely. The steel deck of the draw span expanded in the hot sun. When opened, it would not shut properly. Workers had to cut some of the steel so the bridge would sit in place.

Foster said New Jersey has had larger and more expensive transportation projects, including the rail line between Trenton and Camden.

But he said the new bridge would change the skyline for Ocean City and Somers Point alike.

"The tourism market is one of their major industries. They have to support the industry to compete with other resort and shore areas," he said.

When completed, the first phase of construction will look surreal with two elevated bridges that go nowhere.

"Hopefully, they'll get the funding for the second phase so we won't be left with a giant monument," Foster joked, picturing a 1.2-mile-long Garden State version of the Arc de Triomphe in the middle of the Great Egg Harbor Bay.

Two other companies, George Harms Construction Co., of Howell, Monmouth County, and Perini Construction, of Peekskill, N.Y., submitted bids. The DOT will send the packages to the Federal Highway Administration for review, a spokeswoman said.

To e-mail Michael Miller at The Press:

[email protected]
 

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Thanks for the update,but the worth of the existing bridges (Ships,Elbow,Rainbow & Beach) are worth alot more then $243,000,000.00 to alot of fishermen that I know.. Its ashame they are going bye-bye. :(
 
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