Route 52 Project Now To Be Complete by End of January
Contractors were expected to finish by the end of the calendar year.
Superstorm Sandy contributed to delays that are pushing the completion of the Route 52 reconstruction project back by a month.
Contractors are working to put the final touches on the most expensive bridge project New Jersey has ever completed: a six-year, $400 million replacement of the 2.2-mile causeway that serves as the main route into Ocean City for residents and visitors. The project had originally been scheduled to finish by the end of the calendar year.
The causeway opened in May with two new towering fixed-span bridges and an elevated roadway connecting them. But construction crews have been continuing work on a new mid-causeway visitors center, fishing piers, boat ramps and a separated pedestrian/bicycle path.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Timothy Greeley said on Thursday that the visitor center building is basically complete, but that there are other factors that are extending the project schedule.
He said contractors are converting the main staging area of the project, located underneath the causeway on Garrett's Island, to a wetlands area. Excavation for that work is ongoing and was delayed as Hurricane Sandy made a direct hit on the region on Oct. 29.
The location — across the channel from the bay side of Ocean City — is accessible only by what will end up being the driveway for the visitors center. That means that trucks and heavy equipment are entering and exiting this area daily.
"For precautionary reasons, we are keeping the visitors center closed at this time until the excavation work is done, which we expect now to be wrapped up by the end of January," Greeley said.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean Regional Chamber of Commerce, which will staff the new visitors center on the causeway, said the Chamber is tentatively planning to move in on March 1.
She said that with Easter arriving early this year (March 31), an early-March opening of the new causeway visitors center would be ideal.
"We can't wait," Gillian said. "We're so excited."
Gillian said the existing Welcome Center at Ninth Street and Simpson Avenue will remain open and provide the same services for at least six months as a transition.
A separate lane for bicycles and pedestrians presumably will open when the project is complete at the end of January. The lane is currently open on only part of the bridge.