PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s a big inconvenience for those who travel to the Jersey Shore throughout the summer and business losses could be in the millions. Construction on a popular bridge down the shore will not be completed in time for the start of the beach season. The Townsends Inlet Bridge, that connects Sea Isle City and Avalon, will be closed until at least late summer.
The bridge has been closed since last September and was supposed to be reopened this May. Now, it may be out of service for almost, if not all of, the busy summer season.
Last fall, repairs began to replace seven spans of the deteriorating bridge near the Avalon side.
The Cape May County Bridge Commission announced Monday that due to weather delays and basically underestimating the complexity of the project, instead of reopening on the target date of May 22, the bridge will remain closed until “late summer.”
Businesses that benefit from the free flow of traffic between islands are deeply concerned.
“In my case, I have Mike’s Seafood and Dock Restaurant, but a lot of people going to restaurants there and coming back over here or nightlife here or there,” said Mike Monichetti. “There’s just a lot of people that use that bridge to go back and forth.”
And while they’re not sure there’s anyway to remedy the situation for this summer, they want a permanent solution for keeping the bridge open since it’s been closed about a half dozen times this decade for repairs.
“We keep doing repairs, this is not the [first] summer where we’ve missed it,” Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce President Chris Glancey said. “This is probably the first summer that it’s gone past the middle of July so we might lose a whole summer, you’re never going to make the deadline and it’s obvious they never do.”
Glancey says business losses this summer could be millions of dollars. He says what’s even more aggravating is that this has become a reoccurring issue. Over the last decade, the bridge has been closed half a dozen times for repairs, and in 2015 as well as 2017, it wasn’t reopened until late June when summer tourism is already in effect.
“So we need to come up with a permanent plan and solution to fix the problem,” said Glancey.
Glancey says tourism depends on infrastructure and uncertainty is a killer.
“If people can’t come here and move around freely and safely, then you’re not going to have that tourism come down here and that is the entire industry of Cape May County,” explained Glancey.