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From the AC Press:

Causeway into Ocean City to reopen today
By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer, (609) 463-6712
Published: Thursday, May 18, 2006
Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2006

OCEAN CITY ? The Route 52 causeway will reopen today, one day earlier than expected, the state Commissioner of Transportation said.

Kris Kolluri also responded to local criticism that his agency moved too soon to close lanes on this busy highway instead of making repairs to weakened guardrails. Kolluri said the agency immediately erected the barriers to protect drivers.

?I know it's relatively simple to say they should have done four lanes to begin with. But I take my job very seriously when it comes to safety,? Kolluri said. ?That's the most essential principle we operate under.?

Weather permitting, this 2.5-mile causeway between Somers Point and Ocean City will reopen at 6 a.m. today.

The speed limit will be 35 mph. Weight restrictions will apply.

The state converted the four-lane highway to a two-lane highway in January after a routine bridge inspection found the railings were unsafe. The state installed concrete barriers, which required the lane reconfiguration.

Drivers in Somers Point and Ocean City feared the lane closures would lead to traffic gridlock this summer. The Route 52 causeway is by far the busiest of four bridges into Ocean City.

Local officials criticized the state for closing lanes before soliciting recommendations from the towns. The towns suspected the state was reluctant to invest money in the old causeway when it was about to spend $250 million or more building a new one.

?I think that was part of the issue. Some people might say it's throwing good money after bad. But it's absolutely necessary,? said Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic.

Kolluri said the agency was motivated by safety.

?For me, I'd rather be safe than sorry in this particular instance. I'm of the strongest belief that if the engineers came back and said it would not be safe, I'd have still kept it two lanes,? he said.

The state spent about $1 million repairing guard rails, bolting temporary barrier curbs to the spans and re-striping the highway.

The state will accept a second round of bids on the new causeway on June 1. This project calls for replacing the drawbridges with fixed spans, building a new Ocean City welcome center and eliminating the Somers Point traffic circle.

The northbound bridge is scheduled for completion by Memorial Day 2008 when the old causeway will be demolished. The entire project is expected to be finished by 2009.

To e-mail Michael Miller at The Press:

[email protected]
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