Source: Toms River Patch – In the wake of significant traffic jams in that snarled streets in Toms River and Brick when the Route 37 bridge got stuck open on Saturday, a group of local legislators are demanding answers and action from the state to fix the problem.
In a letter to Richard T. Hammer, the commissioner of the Department of Transportation, state Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen David Wolfe and Gregory McGuckin called the closure of the Mathis Bridge, the third one in July but by far the worst for the bridge that carries the eastbound lanes of Route 37 to the barrier island, “completely unacceptable.”
“The Mathis Bridge is a major artery to barrier towns such as Seaside Heights and the Brick and Toms River beach areas,” the letter from the 10th District legislators, who represent Brick and Toms River, said. “Issues like this have major impacts on businesses that thrive on the inflow of tourists visiting the shore throughout the summer months.”
The mile-long bridge is a double leaf bascule moveable span bridge that was built in 1950, according to the DOT. A $79 million repair and renovation of the span began in November 2015, but the project will take three winters, with completion targeted for early 2018…
On Saturday afternoon, the bridge did not fully lower after a scheduled opening for boat traffic, instead remaining raised by about 2 to 3 feet, according to witnesses. That happened about 3:30 p.m., and quickly backed up traffic on Route 37 east. Authorities began diverting traffic onto Fischer Boulevard, forcing motorists who wanted to get to the barrier island to detour north into Brick and east along Mantoloking Road to cross the Mantoloking Bridge and take Route 35 south…
Authorities tried to relieve some of the traffic by opening one lane eastbound across the Tunney Bridge, which carries westbound traffic, about 5:30 p.m., but by that point the jams were so extensive that some drivers said it took two hours to follow the detour from Toms River north to Brick and then go south to Seaside Heights.
“When the bridge is not in proper working order, thousands of motorists are affected,” the letter said. “With the reoccurrence of problems related to the bridge, this may deter tourists from returning to the area in the future.”
“The Mathis Bridge has always been a reliable means of transportation to the Jersey Shore and has never had issues such as this,” the legislators wrote. “We feel the Department of Transportation needs to address this problem as soon as possible. Residents, tourist and business owners should not be inconvenienced by another closure or traffic jam caused by mechanical problems.”
The bridge finally reopened about 6 p.m.