MANAHAWKIN – Bicyclists and pedestrians will have to take a shuttle in order to cross the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge for the rest of the summer, according to a statement from New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) officials.
The sidewalk that connects the mainland to Long Beach Island will be closed to bicyclists and pedestrians during ongoing construction of the bridge, and anyone violating the temporary restriction will be subject to fines.
The free shuttle bus into LBI will run from Marsha Drive in Stafford with a stop at 3rd Street on Bonnet Island, and return to the mainland with a stop at the Public Access Parking Lot on Bay Avenue after the bridge crossing. The shuttle will be available seven days a week while the sidewalk is closed. A schedule can be found at the NJDOT project website at state.nj.us/transportation/commuter/roads/rte72manahawkinbaybridges.
Construction on the three-mile long bridge began in 2013 and is not expected to be completed until 2020. The $350 million project will repair the structurally insufficient bridge that has become out-of-date over the past 57 years.
While the existing bridge is being rehabilitated, a newly constructed bridge is currently carrying two lanes of traffic over the Manahawkin Bay in each direction. The goal is to have two bridges provide a means on or off the island in the event that one of the bridges needs to be closed. The newer span, which was completed in May 2016, will be the eastbound bridge, and the existing span will be the westbound bridge.
Although the existing bridge sustained only minor damage during Superstorm Sandy, the risk of storm damage is always a concern, especially as bridges provide the only way for vehicles to get on or off Long Beach Island.