Preliminary construction work is underway on the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge.

The current Route 72 Manahawkin Bay bridge (L) and artist rendition of completed bridge (NJ DOT)

The State Department of Transportation (NJDOT) says the $350 million dollar project comprises four contracts with the first phase comprising the $90 million dollar construction of a new bridge parallel to the existing one. The NJDOT says two lanes of traffic will be passable to allow access to LBI during the day and weekends this summer.

The NJDOT says the initial construction zone will require them to close the eastbound side of the highway and the existing u-turn ramps on Cedar Bonnet Island. Eastbound traffic will be shifted to the westbound side of the highway. Then once the new traffic pattern is established, two travel lanes will be maintained in either direction during peak hours, utilizing the existing westbound deceleration lanes.

Route 72 westbound motorist will be directed to use Marsha Drive in Stafford. While Route 72 eastbound motorists will be directed to use Barnegat Avenue in Ship Bottom.

Once the new bridge is completed in 2016, the existing span will be closed for major rehabilitation work because it's deemed to be structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. Once the rehab work is complete, the new span will serve eastbound traffic and the original span will serve westbound traffic.

The three mile bridge links Stafford on the mainland with Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island and is 53 years old. The new bridge will be 2,400 feet long with a vertical clearance of 55 feet over Manahawkin Bay.

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