Sailboats vs. Cars: Frequency of Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge Openings Under Review

August 13, 2017
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The U.S. Coast Guard is considering changing opening times for the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge
for watercraft, from every half hour to once an hour during the summer months. Photo by Jay Cook

By John Burton |

RUMSON — The U.S. Coast Guard is considering changes to the Rumson-Sea Bright bridge openings that may help improve traffic—but don’t expect any change for the remainder of this busy summer.

The Coast Guard, which has the final say over waterway transportation issues, is investigating whether to alter the openings for County Bridge S-32, built in 1950 and spanning the Shrewsbury River, connecting the two communities.

As has been the practice for a number of years, from May to September the Coast Guard opens the drawbridge for water traffic on the hour and half hour on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; the remainder of the year the bridge is opened upon demand.

On the 30-minute schedule, however, vehicular traffic has been worsening in the last few years, acknowledged Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl. “But it peaked this summer,” with the traffic getting particularly bad, Ekdahl added.

Cars have sat idling, queued on Rumson Road, the county road leading up to the bridge, for multiple bridge openings. During the July 4 holiday weekend, “We had traffic backed up on Rumson Road all the way to Bingham Avenue,” a fair distance from the bridge, he observed.

And at that rate, Ekdahl added, “Being in that line, it takes you an hour to get into Sea Bright.”

Rumson Police Chief Scott Paterson said it would be fair to say the traffic this year has been one of the worst in recent memory. “The backups have been long and lengthy,” Paterson said.

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That traffic is spilling over to residential neighborhoods, raising issues with homeowners, too, Ekdahl said.

In response, Rumson and Monmouth County officials and state Senator Joseph Kyrillos Jr. (R-13) approached the Coast Guard about adjusting the schedule, hoping it would alleviate some of the traffic pressure back.

“The congestion, we all know, in that area is bad enough and the backup affects many, many people,” said Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone, who oversees the county’s Public Works and Engineering departments. Arnone said both he and Kyrillos’ office had been receiving “numerous phone calls” about the traffic delays.

At given times, Rumson representatives have clocked the bridge span opening for as much as 18 minutes. “That only gives you 12 minutes to clear up traffic before the next opening,” Ekdahl noted.

The bridge linking Rumson and Sea Bright. Photo by Jay Cook

Given Rumson Road is a county roadway and the bridge comes under county jurisdiction (though the Coast Guard regulates water traffic), the process began with the Board of Chosen Freeholders offering its support for changing the bridge openings. The freeholders in July passed a resolution in support of changing the bridge opening time to just on the hour during the summer months.

“It is about the quality of life,” Arnone said.

Along with Monmouth County, the Coast Guard is seeking supporting resolutions from both Rumson and Sea Bright as part of the process to determine whether the change is advised, explained Charles Rowe, a Coast Guard spokesman.

The formal resolution seeks to have the scheduled on-the-hour openings from May 15 through Sept. 30 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

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Ekdahl said the Rumson Borough Council will be passing the resolution at its Aug. 8 meeting. Sea Bright business administrator Joseph Verruni said the Sea Bright Borough Council was expected to bring it up for discussion at its Aug. 8 workshop meeting. Arnone said Sea Bright officials are supportive of the measure as well.

The Coast Guard considers the efforts of the county and Rumson to be “a serious request” and is undertaking the evaluation, Rowe said. That includes having the Coast Guard accept public comment on the issue until Sept. 18, allowing federal officials to “get a sense of the consensus of the desire of the community,” Rowe said.

Any decision wouldn’t likely happen until late 2017 or early 2018 with any change in policy not occurring until next year. “The process is designed to be long and deliberative on purpose,” Rowe said.

Paterson offered, “I think it’s worth a try,” to provide some relief.

This article was first published in the August 10-17, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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