By Jay Cook |
RUMSON – Engineering students and staff from Rutgers University will be spending their summer vacation along the Navesink River this year.
Beginning in May, members from the Rutgers Infrastructure, Evaluation and Monitoring (RIME) Group will commence a comprehensive study of the health of the Oceanic Bridge, the deteriorating structure connecting Middletown and Rumson over the Navesink River.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously agreed at its March 19 meeting to enter the partnership for up to $65,000.
Monmouth County engineer Joseph M. Ettore said last week that the “high tech” study will include using WIM sensors and Finite Element Modeling to determine the Oceanic Bridge’s remaining usefulness.
Those methods will help calibrate “the actual weight of the vehicles that traverse the bridge and translate it to the actual strain on the structure itself,” Ettore said. “It’s less conservative than classical analysis which has factors of safety built into it but its more consistent with the actual load carry capacity of the structure.”
Per federal regulations, bridges are rated every two years, Ettore said. But the Oceanic Bridge’s posted weight limit is much less than it should be. The weight limit currently is 15 tons but the bridge should be able to carry and hold up to 40 tons, Ettore added.
“We can have a more real-life rating of the bridge, which allows us to keep the bridge operating,” Ettore said, adding the county can minimize any additional investment on the structure as it is scheduled for “rehabilitation and replacement.”
A similar study had been conducted about five years ago by Pennoni Associates, Philadelphia, for nearly $300,000, he said.
The Oceanic Bridge, which was built in 1939 as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, is Monmouth County’s longest and most expensive bridge. It’s a double-leaf drawbridge that spans from the Locust section of Middletown for 2,712 feet before reaching Bingham Avenue, otherwise known as County Road 8A.
In recent years, the bridge’s health has become an issue as county officials have begun seeking an eventual replacement. The bridge is structurally deficient, its superstructure is corroding and exposed and the mechanical drawbridge portion is in “fair to poor” condition with additional rusting, according to MonmouthCountyOceanicBridge.com, an informational site dedicated to the project.
While the county will utilize Rutgers’ services for now, “the bigger picture is the replacement,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone.
Arnone is Monmouth County’s representative on the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), the agency that’s tasked with replacing the Oceanic Bridge. NJTPA awarded the county $600,000 in 2015 to find that replacement.
Arnone also believes it’s one of the most sought-after engineering projects in the nation.
“This project is recognized all over the country. I’m having engineers calling me from California, Idaho,” he said. “This is in every engineer’s magazine around the country.”
Why would that be?
“Because it’s (projected to be) $130 million,” Arnone added. “They want the job and it’s one of the biggest projects coming out. You’re talking huge numbers.”
Arnone believes the county will soon have word on whether the new bridge will be a movable or fixed span structure – an announcement that many in the Two River area are waiting on.
“(The bridge) is going to be gone soon,” he added. “I’d say in the next five to seven years.”
The county is planning on holding another public information session later this spring, most likely to update residents on the preferred alternative chosen by the NJTPA.
This article was first published in the March 29-April 5, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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