Back to the Drawing Board for Oceanic Bridge NJTPA to reconsider default steep-sloping 55-foot design
(Rumson, NJ – March 12, 2015) The Oceanic Bridge viewshed has been called one
of the state’s most beautiful vistas. That could change in the coming months, as the North
Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) recently announced that it had received a
federal grant to study options for replacing the historic Oceanic Bridge in eastern Monmouth County,
which connects Middletown and Rumson across the Navesink River.
For the last decade, Friends of the Oceanic Bridge, a grassroots organization,
has been advocating a low drawbridge design in keeping with the aesthetics of the current bridge,
which connects the two historic districts. The friends group will be meeting with the
NJTPA soon to bolster this plan – as opposed to the default bridge
(55 feet high with a steep 6% grade) that is under consideration by the Federal Highway Authority (FHWA),
which would fund construction.
“Our group worked very closely with the county for years to develop a design that
satisfied state and federal guidelines, while also reflecting the overwhelming desire of
local residents not to build the default 55-foot-tall bridge,” said local businessman
Todd Thompson, president of Friends. “I feel we need to preserve the historical merit of
the present, low, art-moderne-style bridge. This bridge is eligible for New Jersey's
Register of Historic Places.”
Under the new planning guidelines, for the NJTPA to get funding from the FHWA to build a low bridge,
it will have to justify why a high, fixed bridge is not the best design. Part of NJTPA’s
guidelines include an assessment of the economic and social impact of various designs.
Friends of the Oceanic Bridge member Mark Stewart points out that thanks to social media,
the people performing the $600,000 Concept Development Study should be able to gauge public
opposition to a high bridge with much greater accuracy than before.
NJTPA board member and Monmouth County Freeholder Thomas Arnone announced the planning grant.
Citing extreme coastal storms and modern travel needs, Arnone said, “It is time to commit to a new bridge.”
According to the Friends of the Oceanic Bridge website (friendsoftheoceanicbridge.org),
walkers, joggers and cyclists would find it hard to negotiate a high, steeply sloping.
And, having to go under a 55-foot, non-opening bridge would screen out taller sailboats.
The friends group has also identified other environmental, economic and safety issues that favored a lower profile.
Representatives from the Friends of the Oceanic Bridge attended a meeting on February 24th
at Salt Creek Grille in Rumson, along with Freeholder Arnone, Senator Joe Kyrillos,
County Engineer Joe Ettore, Middletown Administrator Tony Mercantante and
several business owners impacted by the bridge project. Construction on the new Oceanic Bridge
could start around 2020 and will likely take 30 months to complete. However, the NJTPA’s $600,000
Concept Development Study begins this summer. Two more meetings with the friends group
have been scheduled for later this spring.
“We are encouraged that we have been invited back to the table as the new study takes shape,”
said Richard McOmber, a Red Bank attorney and Friends of the Oceanic Bridge member. “We have been
asked to update the information we had collected and provided, and confirm that we still have the backing
of the local, county, state and national politicians – as well as regional historic
organizations and societies – who supported our original work.”
“This will take some effort,” Thompson pointed out, “but it is work that is important and will get done.
Fortunately, social media has given us the tools to accomplish much of what the NJTPA is looking
for in terms of public opinion. I think we will be able to demonstrate again how deeply our community
feels about doing the right thing.”
Five years ago, at an overflow public hearing, 99 percent of citizens surveyed were opposed to a high bridge.