STONE HARBOR - During the biennial inspection of the Stone Harbor Boulevard (CR657) Bridge over Great Channel, locally referred to as the “96th Street Bridge,” inspectors found issues with two transverse steel beams, called floor beams, in the movable span.
According to a release, Michael Baker International, Inc. of Hamilton, who is under contract with N.J. Department of Transportation (NJDOT) for the biennial inspections of county-owned bridges in Cape May County, immediately recommended the bridge be load posted at 15 tons until such time as emergency repairs can be made. Therefore effective immediately all trucks and buses are to use Avalon Boulevard (CR601)/Ocean Drive (CR619) to access Stone Harbor.
Michael Baker International has prepared plans for the emergency repairs to the floorbeams and the county is engaging South State, Inc., Bridgeton, to perform the repairs. The repairs will require the closure of the bridge to vehicular traffic from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for approximately four overnights beginning June 20. The bridge will close again June 21 and the balance of the closures will occur during the week of June 25. Motorists can either use the detour route noted for trucks or they can use North Wildwood Boulevard (Route 147) to Ocean Drive, however, Ocean Drive has a 15-ton weight restriction.
The bridge will be open to vehicular traffic during the daytime hours and all weekend long. Signs were installed June 20 advising motorists of the weight restriction.
Due to access issues, the repair to the floorbeams can only be performed with the movable span in the open or up position. With the movable span in the open or up position, marine vessels will be able to pass through the bridge.
Under federal regulations, bridges are to undergo a detailed inspection every two years to ensure they are safe. The floorbeam issue was discovered as part of the bridge inspection program.
The 96th Street Bridge was originally constructed in 1930 and is one of two movable bridges in the county’s inventory of bridges. The main span, called “Rall Type Bascule” is only one of its kind in New Jersey and it is believed that there is only six of its kind constructed in the United States.
As a result of this type of construction, the movable span is deemed to be of historical significance. In 1983-85, the approach spans of the bridge were replaced and the components of the main span were reconstructed. The county repainted the main span and had structural repairs made to the bridge in 1998. Some of the mechanical components of the main span were replaced in 1999.
The bridge did undergo structural repairs in and about the movable span in 2017 and was closed for a period of time in 2016 to repair a cracked girder. The county is in the process of initiating a major improvement program for the county and Commission bridges and the 96th Street Bridge is targeted for improvements.