Meeting on Route 88 Closures to be Held in Brick Wednesday
Lanes could be closed for 8 to 12 months near Brick-Point border
It's one of the primary gateways between Point Borough and Brick and it's going to be partially closed and rebuilt in a couple of years.
The bridge over Beaver Dam Creek, on Route 88, needs to be rebuilt, which means the eastbound lane will have to be closed during at least part of the projected 8 to 12 months it will take to get the work done, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The rebuilding of the bridge will be the subject of a meeting at the Brick Township Municipal Building, 401 Chambersbridge Rd., Brick, from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The bridge has to be rebuilt for a number of reasons, including that it's "structurally deficient, functionally obsolete" and has no sidewalks, according to the DOT (see first attached PDF). Also, the DOT says, the bridge's guardrails and the "cross slope" of the westbound lane are all "substandard."
"The proposed bridge will be wider to meet with current design standards, improve operational and safety conditions, and avoid costly maintenance of the current structure," the DOT says in a "hand-out" distributed at a prior meeting.
"The proposed new bridge will provide one 11 foot travel lane and an 8 foot right shoulder in each direction," according to the DOT.
"Pedestrian access is to be improved with new sidewalks on both sides of the structure. All efforts will be made by NJDOT to minimize environmental impacts," the hand-out says.
"To construct this project as quickly as possible and to minimize the environmental impact, NJDOT is proposing a detour for Route 88 traffic eastbound, while the bridge is being completed," the DOT says.
"The signed detour will direct motorists to Route 70 eastbound to Burnt Tavern Road and then back to Route 88. Route 88 westbound will be maintained through the work zone during construction."
So far, there has been no information released publicly regarding how long the eastbound lane of the bridge on Route 88 will be closed during that 8 to 12 months of work.
On Monday afternoon, DOT spokesman Timothy Greeley said, "As the project still remains in design, the duration of the proposed Route 88 eastbound bridge closure and detour has not been finalized.
"Currently, the project is expected to last around 9-12 months but that closure will not be necessary over the entirety of the project," he said. "Our project designers will be on hand at the meeting to provide more detail on the current plans on Wednesday."
Greeley has said the DOT "has allocated $500,000 in the current Fiscal Year 2012 Capital Program to advance the project in preliminary engineering."
However, "no construction funding is set at this time, as that work is still a few years away," Greeley added.
"We also held an initial local officials briefing on this proposed project in August with representatives from both towns," Greeley said. "The Rt 88 eastbound closure/detour option was discussed at that time and neither town voiced objection, but rather requested that the work not take place during the summer season."
However, Point Borough officials have expressed concerns about the project, the Point Pleasant Chamber has serious concerns about the impact on businesses and the Brick Chamber wants more information too.
Michele Eventoff, executive director of the Brick Chamber, which has between 500 and 700 members, said on Monday afternoon that she had not known about the upcoming meeting on Wednesday, or anything about the planned project, until Patch called her.
Eventoff said she wants to get more information before commenting.
Greeley said the project is now in the design phase, with work expected to start in 2014.
The state DOT is holding the meeting on Wednesday at the behest of the Point Pleasant Chamber of Commerce, which has strong concerns about the planned closure of the eastbound lane of the bridge, said Point Chamber Executive Director Eileen McCabe.
"They weren't going to have this meeting," said McCabe on Monday. "But we asked them to have it because we didn't know about the Oct. 7 meeting in Point Pleasant."
DOT officials held an Oct. 7 meeting at Point's Borough Hall, but chamber members didn't know anything about it until after it was long over.
Borough officials have said they had minimal advance notice and a lot of questions and concerns. Also, Borough Business Administrator David Maffei said on Nov. 30 that the DOT never notified his office of the upcoming meeting this Wednesday.
Timothy Greeley, a DOT spokesman, said the DOT has notified all businesses within 200 feet of the bridge about the October and December meetings, which is "standard procedure," posted a notice on the DOT website, and a notice was mailed to Point Borough Hall, although he did not know when. (See second attached PDF which is a notice of the October meeting.)
McCabe, characterizing the October meeting, said, "It was kind of under the rug, kind of secret. When you only told people within 200 feet, you're not getting the word out to the masses."
That kind of minimal notification is insufficient for a large project that will have a great impact on businesses and residents in Point and Brick, said McCabe, who plans to contact the Brick Chamber of Commerce later today.
McCabe said she hopes a large number of business owners in both towns attend the meeting.
"I think this is the last meeting the DOT is having on this, so this is an opportunity for business owners to make their voices heard," McCabe said.
In an Oct. 14 email to its members, the Point Pleasant Chamber of Commerce said that Denise Peck, DOT's Regional Manager of the Office of Community Relations, had indicated she may have been willing to attend the chamber's Oct. 25 meeting "to explain the project, since the chamber members had not been informed of the Oct. 7 meeting and had not been there."
"We are trying to schedule a 're-do' of the presentation that took place at Point Pleasant Borough Hall last week," McCabe wrote in the mass email.
While the chamber email used the term "re-do," Peck was quick to correct that term in her own email sent to Patch on Oct. 17.
"It is not a 're-do,' " Peck wrote. "When Eileen phoned, we discussed the project and time line. Eileen asked (if) I would be (able to) come out and talk to the chamber members, I told her that I have no problem with doing that however, it would be understood that it is a private meeting and not open to the public and if media/press were to be invited or attended, there would be no meeting. She understood."
Patch then emailed Peck asking, "Why can't the general public and media attend?"
Peck never answered Patch. Instead, Greeley sent the following email, indicating Peck would not be attending a chamber meeting:
"As to the Chamber of Commerce meeting request - we are currently scheduling a second PIC (Public Information Center) for the project to be held in Brick Township within the next few weeks," he said. "We will not been attending any meetings held by specialized groups before we hold that second PIC.
"Our Office of Community Relations has reached out to the Point Chamber of Commerce and informed them of that. We will continue to work with both towns and effected stakeholders throughout the project design process, keeping them informed as best we can."
The DOT "hand-out," which was made available at the Oct. 7 meeting, concludes with, "For further information, please contact:
Denise Peck, Office of Community Relations, NJ Department of Transportation, PO Box 600, Trenton, NJ 08625-0600, 609-530-2853, Denise.firstname.lastname@example.org."