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VILLAS – Lower Township residents had two opportunities to hear and see several Ocean Drive (Middle Thorofare) Bridge Improvement concepts at Lower Township Hall Aug. 23.

Those bridges were built before World War II, and although safe, have been declared "structurally deficient" because they can no longer support 15 tons which is the standard they were intended to meet.

Engineer Martin Wade led a team of presenters from Michael Baker International and others including Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster in conducting a presentation that sought ideas from the public about some key features of the concept that they would prefer.

The team outlined eight alternatives that would, in their opinion, improve traffic flow of autos, bikers, and pedestrians over the three bridges that convey vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists from Garden State Parkway's exit zero at Ocean Drive to Diamond Beach/Wildwood Crest via the Middle Thorofare Bridge.

The team wished to identify a “preliminary preferred alternative” that would be the basis for a later design. When the design of that preferred alternative is completed sometime in the fall, more presentations will be scheduled for stakeholders.

Choices

According to the presenters, the county must first decide whether to do nothing about the three bridges, and continue maintenance and repairs as before (considered insufficient), or to replace/rehabilitate those bridges and improve/elevate the roadbed to a 100-year flood elevation. 

Once that decision is made, the second decision is to choose between a moveable (lift) bridge or a fixed bridge. The eight alternatives presented were based on variations of that choice.

Alternative 2 included rehabbing the Middle Thorofare (MT) Bridge, and replacing the two smaller Mill Creek and Upper Thoroughfare (UT) bridges, while raising the roadbed to the 100-year flood elevations.

Alternative 3 would replace all three bridges; the MT fixed bridge would be raised to 80 feet vertically, to eliminate openings.

Alternative 4 would move the bridge to the north of the current roadbed.

Alternative 5 would move the bridge to the south of the existing roadbed.

The alternatives that feature a moveable span would feature a 45-foot vertical height from the water in the closed position; this would eliminate 68 percent of all openings but not eliminate them. 

The current Middle Thorofare Bridge has a vertical clearance of 23 feet.

All roadbeds and bridges would consist of 12-foot-wide lanes with an eight-foot shoulder.

Sidewalks would be constructed to accommodate all pedestrians and bikers (bikers would walk bikes), leaving room for anglers as well. Businesses that have a stake in the project would have access roads added; again, locations and specific needs will be determined by the alternative selected after the fact-finding process is complete.

Roadways will be raised approximately eight feet above the current roadbeds along this 2.7-mile stretch of Ocean Drive to reduce the possibility of flooded roads during and after storms. 

For complete details of all eight alternatives, visit www.capemaytwomilebridge.com

To contact Jim McCarty, email jmccarty@cmcherald.com.

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