We are very busy at the start of 2015 with new projects on the horizon and the end to others nearing completion throughout MonmouthCounty.

I am pleased to announce on Monday, January 12, 2015, myself and my fellow North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) Board of Trustees members, unanimously approved $600,000 in federal funding for Monmouth County to investigate options for the replacement or rehabilitation of the Oceanic Bridge in Monmouth County.

As the years have gone on, maintaining the OceanicBridge has become more costly. This grant will allow us to look to the future and take steps toward building a better bridge, one that will stand up to the extreme coastal storms we will face and serve our modern travel needs.

Built in 1939, the 2,712-foot double leaf drawbridge, which crosses the NavesinkRiver from Rumson to Middletown, has been classified as structurally deficient. The bridge has deteriorated due to decades of exposure to saltwater and from accommodating heavier vehicles and additional traffic volume than it was originally designed to handle. The two lane bridge serves beach, commercial and residential traffic, as well as pedestrian and bicycle travel. As one of the three local bridges that crosses the Navesink, it is also a key route for coastal evacuations and emergency response vehicles.

The OceanicBridge study is one of eight in northern and central New Jersey selected to receive federal funding through the NJTPA’s Fiscal Year 2016 Local Capital Project Delivery Program. This program awards grants to the NJTPA’s member counties and cities to investigate all aspects of a project, including environmental, right of way, access, design and feasibility issues. Studies that complete this initial investigative work, called the Local Concept Development Phase, may be eligible for eventual construction.  A total of $3 million was approved for this year’s round of studies. For additional information about the program, visit NJTPA.org.

In addition, beginning Monday, January 5, the WestFrontStreetBridge, connecting Red Bank and Middletown, was closed to motor vehicle traffic until May 17. Pedestrian access across the bridge will be available throughout the closure, and bicyclists must dismount and walk their bicycle across the bridge.  We are moving into the home stretch with the WestFrontStreetBridge replacement project and it is on schedule to open before Memorial Day weekend. Since the bridge replacement project started in August 2013, the WestFrontStreetBridge has remained open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic for most of the past 16 months. To connect the new bridge to the Middletown and Red Bank shorelines, we must close the current bridge to vehicles and begin the last big phase of construction. Hubbard’s Bridge, as it is known locally, was originally constructed in 1921 and due to the bridge’s age, severe corrosion required that the bridge be replaced.

On Wednesday, January 14, myself and the Monmouth County Economic Development team delivered a Grow Monmouth presentation to members and guests of the Long Branch Chamber of Commerce.  The event was held at the Long Branch Campus of Brookdale Community College for approximately 35 people.  Grow Monmouth is a long-term, community wide initiative by the Board of Chosen Freeholders to ensure the economic health of Monmouth County through partnerships with industry, municipal, state and federal governments, academia, business and community organizations. We work closely with federal, state and local business resource partners to identify and deliver financing and business incentive programs. For more information, please visit the Economic Development page on www.co.monmouth.nj.us

Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone