Bowman Road bridge replacement advancing

With a March 15 deadline looming, initial work to replace the Bowman Road bridge in Jackson is under way, according to the Ocean County Board of Freeholders.

“It is important we get a lot of the initial work done prior to the March 15 deadline, because that begins a three-month restriction on working in the stream,” Freeholder John P. Kelly said. “We want to have this span reopened to traffic by September in time for the new school year, and missing that deadline would push the timeline back substantially.”

Work on the bridge, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Irene, got under way following the awarding of a contract to Lucas Construction Group Inc., of Morganville, in the amount of $1.52 million by the freeholders.

“We originally anticipated replacing this span late in 2012,” said Kelly, “but the severity of this late-summer storm and its impact on this structure resulted in us expediting the replacement of the bridge.”

The contract calls for the work to be completed in nine months. The bridge is surrounded by environmentally sensitive lands controlled by the state, limiting work space and making it necessary to close Bowman Road, according to the press release. Additionally, because of certain fish spawning and fish maintenance requirements regulated by the state Department of Environmental Protection and Fish and Wildlife, work in the stream is restricted from March 15 through July 1.

“The contractor cannot work in the water during that time, so it was important to start the work as soon as possible,” Freeholder James F. Lacey said. “The contractor is preparing to install the permanent coffer dams starting Feb. 1, which will allow us to meet the state’s requirements and continue work on the span out of the water.”

The bridge was closed to traffic after Hurricane Irene hit the area in late August, and detours have been posted redirecting motorists.

Ocean County officials decided against the original plan to erect a temporary bridge in the area, noting it would not provide any real relief to motorists because of the amount of time it would have taken to erect it, according to the press release.

“The road closure allows us to accelerate the construction of the project,” Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said. “The Bowman Road bridge was the only one we were unable to repair with in-house forces following the storm.”

During Hurricane Irene, a sinkhole began to appear at the northwest corner of the span, and while the hole was filled, the bridge was closed to traffic later on Sept. 1 after a bridge inspector observed that settlement had occurred along the east abutment wall and it appeared the pile cap had rolled. Further investigation of the span revealed the storm had pushed so much water through the bridge that it scoured the streambed by about 8 feet, exposing the abutment sheeting, which was 16 feet long.

The Bowman Road bridge is a threespan timber pile-supported bridge originally constructed in 1939 and upgraded in 1971. The replacement will be a concrete structure.