Friends of the Oceanic Bridge, Inc., a grassroots organization based near that bridge — the bridge over the Navesink River between Middletown and Rumson — is asking for community support for a 45-foot-high drawbridge when the present bridge is replaced. If Friends and its supporters have not heard, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority along with the Monmouth County Engineer's Office has announced at an August 27th stakeholder meeting that the Preliminary Preferred Alternative is a high, humpbacked bridge with a steep, five-percent grade and 65 feet of clearance above the channel — as opposed to 22 feet of clearance under the present bridge. At its highest point the roadway on this non-opening bridge would be 80 feet above mean high water In 2004 the present art moderne bridge was slated for replacement. That same year Friends was formed to support getting a new drawbridge with the same beauty and function as the present bridge.
To register an opinion on this, visit www.monmouthcountyoceanicbridge.com , click on “Community Involvement” and scroll down to “online PIC comment form.” The deadline for comments is Friday, October 16th. Also, if you live in Rumson or Middletown its important to notify your local officials at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.middletownnj.org . The trustees of Friends now feel that any clearance up to 45 feet would be acceptable, just not 65 feet. At 45 feet, for example, almost 80 to 97 percent of marine traffic could pass under the bridge without it having to open. And the grade could drop to 3.7 percent.
Eight years ago after a public meeting, nine out of ten of those who returned a questionnaire were in favor of a low bridge. Friends of the Oceanic Bridge now seeks a reaffirmation, because other factors threaten to override that preference for a lower drawbridge. Earlier, cost estimates came out even or favored a lower structure, but now they've shifted to favor a high bridge. Also, the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority now claims that the Federal Highway Administration will only pay for a low bridge when a high bridge is not “practicable,” which it almost always is. This contravenes an interpretation of that same policy that was given to Friends by an FHWA division administrator in 2009; namely that non-construction-related factors can be considered. The decision can be swayed, for example, by community support, historical considerations, and economic impact.
The present low bridge is used daily by many people for recreational use. The proposed high, steep bridge, whose roadway would be 80 feet above the water at it highest point, would drastically limit this recreational use by walkers, joggers, and cyclists. For vehicles, this steep bridge could create safety issues during icy and snowy weather conditions. And even in good weather, vehicles would be noisier climbing the grade, to the detriment of the surroundings.
A bridge that is 80-feet high not counting superstructure is the height of a six-story building and would dominate the view-shed of the entire area. It would be completely out of character in the two Historic Districts within both Rumson and the Locust section of Middletown, which the bridge connects. Instead, a low or midlevel drawbridge could be designed to look like the present 1939 bridge, with its historic art moderne design and eligibility for the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.
Mid-20th century 'master builder' Robert Moses sought to put thoroughfares right through residential neighborhoods in New York City — until finally stopped. He was putting the interests of out-of-area drivers above those of the communities affected. Friends of the Oceanic Bridge believes this could happen here.
The Wilson Bridge is an Interstate Highway System bridge connecting historic Alexandria, Virginia with Oxon Hill, Maryland. It was originally built in 1961 as a low drawbridge, and then was replaced in 2006 with a higher drawbridge. The reason both were drawbridges? The historic nature of old Alexandria and its surroundings and the willingness of its citizens to demand low bridges in keeping with those surroundings.