By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The Cape May County agency that operates the Corsons Inlet Bridge has received all of the permits that are needed to move ahead with the rehabilitation of the 75-year-old structure.
Also planned is a patching job to fill in the potholes that have pockmarked the bridge’s concrete decking.
With the permits now in hand, the Cape May County Bridge Commission expects to go out to bid for the estimated $3 million to $4 million rehabilitation project within the next 90 days.
“We’ve received all permits for that project,” said Lewis Donofrio, the bridge commission’s chief engineer.
Donofrio noted that $1.6 million in state funding will help pay for the project. The county will pick up the rest of the tab.
Construction will be done during the quieter offseason months to minimize traffic disruptions. One alternating lane of traffic will be used to accommodate construction work.
A traffic signal will control the flow of vehicles across the bridge during construction, but tolls will still be collected, Donofrio said.
“We’re going to be running on an alternating lane system. No work during the summer. This is completely offseason,” Donofrio said during the bridge commission’s Jan. 20 board meeting.
The main part of the bridge’s rehabilitation will be a new contract to fix the support system that holds up the drawbridge – or bascule section – of the span.
The drawbridge has not been lifted in the upright position since 2013, Donofrio said. Repairs to the support system will finally allow the bridge to be raised to allow boats to pass underneath.
Donofrio, though, noted that even when the commission was operating the drawbridge prior to 2013 there wasn’t a lot of demand from boaters for the structure to be lifted. He pointed out that sediment buildup in Corsons Inlet near the bridge makes it difficult for boats to travel in the same area.
Corsons Inlet separates Ocean City and Strathmere and leads from the ocean through the barrier islands off the northeast coast of Cape May County.
Since 1946, the Corsons Inlet Bridge has served as a vital link along the Ocean Drive between Ocean City, Strathmere and Sea Isle City. Altogether, 355,273 vehicles used the bridge from 2019 to 2020, bridge commission traffic figures show.
Corsons Inlet is one of five toll bridges operated by the commission along the scenic Ocean Drive that links the Cape May County shore communities. The four other spans include the Ocean City-Longport Bridge, Townsends Inlet Bridge, Middle Thorofare Bridge and Grassy Sound Bridge.
Donofrio said Corsons Inlet is “our No. 1 project on the list” of bridge repairs and upgrades that will be done by the commission in 2022.
The commission is also planning to patch the potholes that litter the concrete decking on the Corson Inlet Bridge. The pothole work will be done separately from the bridge’s rehabilitation project.
Donofrio said the commission expects to award a contract for the pothole patching by the end of February, with the work being done in March or April.
“This is just a quick project to try to put together to do patching on the Corsons Inlet deck. It looks pretty beat up. It’s something we can get in before (the rehabilitation) project. So we’re thinking this will be done in the next couple of months,” he said.
As winter transitions into spring, the roadways go through freeze-thaw cycles that create potholes.
Donofrio explained that potholes also form when road salt used during snowstorms seeps into the concrete decking and causes the bridge’s reinforcing steel to corrode. Pressure is then created on the concrete, forcing it to pop out and form potholes.