CITING THE IMPORTANCE of the Mathis Bridge linking Toms River Township with the Northern Barrier Islands, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders today praised the state’s plan to re-open the span prior to Memorial Day.
“We are very pleased to learn that after months of work the bridge will be open before the start of the summer tourism season,” Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said.
Little said the bridge, which carries Route 37 eastbound to the oceanfront communities along the barrier island, is the key link between the popular tourist destinations of Seaside Heights and surrounding towns and the mainland.
“We thank Governor Phil Murphy and the state Department of Transportation for their efforts to ensure the Mathis Bridge will be open and ready for the summer,” Little said.
Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, liaison to Tourism, said the county’s population doubles during the summer months.
“Many of those visitors come right off the Parkway, onto Route 37 and across the bridge to the ocean and bay,” Vicari said.
The bridge has been closed since May while state contractors replaced the span’s 65-year-old deck.
According to the DOT, the bridge is expected to re-open prior to Memorial Day weekend, which signals the unofficial start of the summer season.
“Governor Murphy understands, as we do, the importance of the tourism season not just to Ocean County’s economy, but to the economy of the entire state,” Vicari said.
Now that the bridge opening is official, the Freeholders again asked Murphy for assistance in fast tracking another road project that may impact Shore traffic, – the ongoing work at the routes 37 and 166 intersection in Toms River.
“This project was supposed to have been completed by now,” Little said. “While we understand that the majority of delays occurred prior to Governor Murphy taking office, we would ask that he do all he can to expedite the work.”
Located near the entrance to the Garden State Parkway, the construction project could be a bottleneck for traffic both heading to and leaving the Shore.
The DOT now estimates that the work may not be completed until next year.
“Enough is enough,” Vicari said in a recent letter to Murphy. “This project impedes the flow of traffic through one of the busiest areas of Toms River and we cannot wait until 2019 to see this work completed.”