Aside from the image of the Jet Star roller coaster in Seaside Heights lying in the ocean, few images of Superstorm Sandy's wrath were as iconic as the Mantoloking Bridge being dubbed the "bridge to nowhere" after a new inlet formed near Herbert Street in Mantoloking.
But when Brick residents returned to the barrier island Monday morning, significant progress had been made on the destroyed roadways near the base of the bridge.
After Sandy struck, ocean water flowed freely through a newly formed inlet into Barnegat Bay. With it came flood waters that ravaged many mainland sections of Ocean County - especially bayfront neighborhoods such as Shore Acres in Brick.
As recently as 10 days ago, when Patch was granted a tour of the area, no roads had been constructed where Route 35 once ran, with only a cleared sand road acting as access from one side Herbert Street (known as Mantoloking Road on the west side of the bridge) to the other.
The photographs attached to this story show the area currently, and prior to the current roadway construction. The second photo shows the same area as the first, from the opposite site of the intersection.
Leaving the inlet open was not an option, said Brick Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis.
"We would've lost Shore Acres," he said, since water rushing into the bay would have frequently left that neighborhood, as well as others, under water.
After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plugged the inlet by moving massive amounts of sand to the area to act as fill, a metal wall, as well as a makeshift dune, was constructed to protect what would eventually have to become the roadway again.
By Monday, that new road began to take shape.
State officials confirmed to Patch that crews had begun reconstructing Route 35 in the area of Herbert Street, and asphalt had been laid down.
Photographs showed new traffic lights had been placed at the intersection of Route 35 and Herbert Street, one of two links between the barrier island and the mainland over Barnegat Bay.
There was no immediate word as to when the island would be open to public traffic. Checkpoints are still set up allowing only residents and authorized vehicles to enter the area.
But progress continued island-wide, especially in Brick, officials said.
New Jersey Natural Gas said in a statement Monday that all of Brick Township's portion of the island had its gas service restored.
"For the homes that can safely receive service, meters have been re-built in the section from Downer Avenue in Mantoloking to Dune Avenue in Brick, and from Ocean View Avenue to Jeanette Drive in Brick," the company said.
Residents must now hire their own licensed contractors to determine a home's natural gas equipment is safe for use, and turn service on.
Gas service has been restored to a total of 882 customers on the island, the company said. The first meter to be switched back was Brick's Pioneer Hose Fire Company on Route 35.