For more than four years, silence has surrounded the Beesley's Point Bridge, as people who live near it loudly voiced their dismay.
“It’s kind of a pain to go all the way around,” said Scott Hertel, who lives near the bridge in the Beesley's Point section of Upper Township, N.J.
The deteriorating, 80-year-old bridge linking Somers Point in Atlantic County with Upper Township in Cape May County, via Route 9, was shut down for safety reasons back in 2004. Ever since, many drivers have been forced to go miles out of their way by using the Garden State Parkway.
But Tuesday, following much debate and legal wrangling, the Beesley's Point Bridge Company officially sold the span to Cape May County for $1.
The deal clears the way for the bridge to undergo approximately $20 million in repairs. Officials hope they will be completed by 2012.
“This was a necessary link in transportation for a lot of our local needs, when it comes to tourism, our local economy, emergency evacuation,” said Freeholder Director Daniel Beyel of Cape May County.
As part of the deal, the bridge’s prior owners had to pay back a $900,000 loan to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, officials said. NJDOT lent that money in 1997, but the owners had to agree to keep the bridge open for 20 years. They did not fulfill that agreement.
“We’ve got a challenge here to fix this bridge but it’s one that we believe can be taken care of and get this bridge reopened,” said Dale Foster, Cape May County engineer.
State funds and tolls collected after the bridge reopens will pay for the repairs.