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For $1, County Owns Beesley's Point Bridge

Government | Tue, 12/30/2008 - 5:33 pm | Updated 6 years 15 weeks ago | Read 3918 | Commented 6 | Emailed 1
Tags: beesley's point, Beesley's Point Bridge, cape may county freeholders

By Al Campbell

Front photo: Mid-span Beesley's Point Bridge. At the Beesley's Point Bridge, from left: County Engineer Dale Foster, County Administrator Stephen O'Connor, Upper Township Mayor Richard Palombo, Freeholder Ralph Bakley Sr., Freeholder Director Daniel Beyel

BEESLEY'S POINT — Earlier on Tuesday, Dec. 30 owners of Beesley's Point Bridge repaid the state Department of Transportation its $900,000, and the Cape May County Board of Freeholders signed documents, paid $1 and the bridge became county property.

Later, at afternoon press availability at the southern end of the closed, 80-year-old bridge, a delegation of county officials and two members of the First District Legislative team braved a chilly wind to make the action public.

“This has been a long time coming, and I’m glad we’re finally in a position to get this bridge rehabilitated and reopened,” said Freeholder Director Daniel Beyel.

Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1st) stressed the public safety issue of having the bridge reopened.

“Some day, someone will go to the freeholders or to this legislative team and say ‘You saved a life,’” said Van Drew.

While some felt the county was “buying a pig in a poke,” said Van Drew, that just isn’t so, he added. The bridge, linking Cape May and Atlantic counties, closed for four and a half years, can be revamped, he said.

The former owners had engineering studies done to prove that rehabilitation was possible and practical, Van Drew said.
“Fiscally, it makes sense,” he continued, noting that the state would pay 60 percent of the cost of the projected $20 million to repair the span, while user fees (tolls) would pay the remaining 40 percent,” he continued.

“You have done the right thing,” Van Drew reassured Beyel, who stood at his right hand.

County Engineer Dale Foster said the first thing the county would do would be to hire consultants to survey the extent of the work that would have to be done to reopen the bridge by 2012.

He said the bascule span would be placed in the open position within the next three months to allow boat traffic, and eliminate the need for a bridge tender.

A list of permits will be required including some from the state Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.

One of the first orders of business will be repainting the steel underpinnings, once the rust of many years is taken away.

The present asphalt surface, deteriorated in many places, will be removed and replaced. The inadequate pipe railing will be replaced with guardrails, Foster said.

There will also be major overhaul on the electrical system, he said.

Once all the work is completed, it is estimated the bridge will be usable for at least 15 more years, Foster said.

When the bridge reopens, possibly in 2012 if not earlier, it’s $1.50 toll, charged one way, will equal that of the Garden State Parkway, said Stephen O’Connor, county administrator and executive director of the Cape May County Bridge Commission, which will operate the bridge.

“The users will pay the complete debt,” said O’Connor.

Upper Township Mayor Richard Palombo lauded the work done by the legislators and freeholders.

“The community can never be prepared enough,” said Palombo, who witnessed first-hand hurricane damage wrought in the South by recent storms.

At present, he said, there is just one entrance to this peninsula, and that a second one is needed for safety, evacuation and other emergencies.

“No where else in New Jersey is a state road cut off, and a highway dead ended,” said Palombo.

“Speaking for (Upper) township committee, we could not be happier,” the mayor added.

In the last year of its operation, some 2 million cars crossed the bridge. At that time, its toll was 35 cents each way, while the Parkway toll was 30 cents, said Beyel.

According to a county release, the freeholders previously filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation to force the state repair of the bridge.

In a negotiated settlement, DOR agreed to provide funding for the anticipated $20 million rehabilitation of the bridge. Under the funding formula, the state will pay the full $1.3 million annual debt for the first three years while the bridge repairs are made.

After the bridge is opened to traffic, the state will continue to pay 60 percent of the debt. The remainder will be paid by tolls.

“Based on the Bridge Commission operating the facility with one-way $1.50 tolls, the approximate 1.7 million users of the bridge will be paying the county’s share of the repairs,” Beyel stated.

“I anticipate we will be awarding a contract in February or March for this (engineering proposals and securing permits to start) for this phase,” Beyel continued.

“I’ve urged the DOT as well as our legislators to help expedite the permitting process so we can start construction as soon as possible,” he stated.

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Thu, 01/01/2009 - 1:02pm - Posted by: Anonymous

If it was such a good deal, where's Atlantic county with their contribution? Why are only Cape May county taxpayers shouldering this debacle. Unfortunately, by the time this "deal" proves to be otherwise, Van Drew and his gang of old, white boys will be long gone. This only proves that we need more diversity in CMC. That picture could use a few women, blacks, Hispanics, and/or Asians. Vote the bums out.

Wed, 12/31/2008 - 5:20pm - Posted by: Anonymous

another TOTAL waste of taxpayer monies. There are approximately 2,500 households affected by the closing of this bridge and the impact is an additonal ten minutes of driving time if they are coming from the north via the GS Parkway.

Please don;t tell me this repair work is for evacaution purposes. There are other routes out of the Beesely's Point/Mamora region via the GS Parkway and across to Corbin City and Route 50. NOAA will ALWAYS be able to predict the path of bad storms and provide DAYS OF LEAD TIME to the residents of Cape May County.

Poptentially a medical emergency can reduce time to Shore Memorial by five or six minutes. In this rare situation, should we spend $20 plus million ?

The State of NJ is paying 60% of the frieght which means ALL NJ taxpayers. Add this to the already insane idea of adding a lane to the Xpressway and GS Parkway and you have our government officals acting like Richie rich with OUR HARD EARNED MONIES.

Wanna spend $20 plus million? Invest in a battery technology center to promote clean energy technologie or how about a horseshoe crab medical development complex...opps, we missed that opportunity to VA.

Our state and national debt load is so high that we may never relieve ourselves of it. The opportunity to retire the debt is available but the politicians, including local representatives, just want to spend more and more money. This behavior needs to end soon or we will be buried in debt forever.

Wed, 12/31/2008 - 3:47pm - Posted by: Anonymous


Wed, 12/31/2008 - 9:52am - Posted by: Anonymous

Hats off to Freeholder Gerald Thornton, the only TRUE REPUBLICAN, left standing on the Board of Chosen Freeholders. HE's the only one left looking out for the interest of ALL the people of Cape May County. Thank you Jerry and keep up the good work, you are greatly appreciated by the people, ALL THE PEOPLE, that you represent.

Tue, 12/30/2008 - 11:19pm - Posted by: Anonymous

This was a 100% waste of tax payer money. Freeholder Thorten is the only one looking out for us. We will not even brake even on this and the parkway is faster anyway. Give me a break you all stand there like you did something great. GET REAL! VanDrew should have stood up to the STATE WHO OWNS ROUTE 9!!!!!!! you should all be ashamed of yourselfs!

Tue, 12/30/2008 - 6:09pm - Posted by: Anonymous

As someone who lives in Upper Township, I have felt the frustration of the Beesley's Point Bridge being closed. However, doesn't paying $20 million dollars to repair and open a bridge for 15 years seem like a lot? I mean, 1.3 million dollars a year? Even if they manage to get the 2 million customers back, the bridge will only bring in 3 million dollars per year. It also seems unlikely to me that all 2 million customers will begin using the bridge. With EZ Pass such a commonality, it's easier to use the parkway rather than carry $1.50 in cash. From a safety standpoint, it will be much better for summer traffic and the need to get to Shore Memorial. I hope that it all turns out to be a wise investment!

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