What to Know
- The Townsend's Inlet Bridge has connected Avalon and Sea Isle City along the Jersey Shore for decades.
- Since September, Cape May County officials have been carrying out an $8.6 million project to replace seven of the 27 spans of the bridge.
- Weather and other delays have caused officials to push back the construction completion date to late summer at the earliest.
That’s the earliest that the Townsend's Inlet Bridge, a key connection between Avalon and Sea Isle City along the Jersey Shore, will reopen.
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The 1,373-foot bridge was first closed last April for emergency repairs to railings after an underwater inspection of bridge pilings found structural damage.
Crews then waited out the 2018 summer season before replacing seven bridge spans. County officials hoped the nearly $8.6-million project would be wrapped by May 22, just in time for Memorial Day 2019.
To travel between the popular summer vacation destinations people now need to take about a 20-minute trek (without traffic) back to the mainland to use U.S. Route 9. (Get the latest traffic and alternate routes from our First Alert Traffic partner Waze.)
Most demolition and construction has involved floating equipment. The county wanted to replace the bridge, but that could have cost as much as $155 million.
The project hit snags over the winter due to the “overall complexity of the project,” tidal events and weather, officials said.
“Despite adding additional manpower and work shifts (at times 24 hours per day of construction activity), several construction challenges including those associated with demolition, underwater salvage operations, and subsurface geotechnical complications have adversely affected the bridge’s completion schedule,” the public works department said in a statement Monday. “Regrettably, the aftermath of the previous construction issues will result in a substantial delay of the planned opening date of the bridge.”
The hope now is to get drivers moving again at some point this summer but an official reopening target date won’t be known for another month, officials said.
"With public safety as the foremost concern, but with keen awareness of the inconvenience and impacts the delay will cause residents and businesses in Avalon and Sea Isle City, the county and all involved in the Townsend Inlet project are working together to achieve the earliest opening date possible," officials said.
Jacquie Ewing, the owner of Armadillo, Ltd., a home decor shop in Avalon, told NBC10 the delay was more than just an inconvenience.
"This is loss of income," she said. "It's serious."
The news of further delays to repairs on the deteriorating, nearly 80-year-old bridge comes as a hit for businesses on the ends of each shore town.
"We really do depend on that income from the island to the north," Ewing said. "As they depend on income from us."