Cape May County NJ takes over private Beesley's Point Bridge
By Peter Samuel
Cape May County New Jersey took over the Beesley's Point Bridge today (2008-12-30) paying a token one dollar in a transaction to acquire title to the private toll bridge which has been closed to traffic since June 23 2004. As part of the transaction the bridge company repaid a $900k loan from the NJDOT from 1997. The bridge which carries US Route 9 (US9) over the Great Egg Harbor Bay just inland and southwest of Atlantic City was built by the private Ocean City Automobile Company in 1927, passing later into the hands of the held Beesley's Point Bridge Company.
About 1.9km (6200ft) in length it is a causeway trestle structure and carries one lane of traffic each direction. It spans the boundary between Cape May and Atlantic counties over a shallow marshy saltwater bay.
Along the Jersey shore the Garden State Parkway closely follows US9 and indeed in the early days of the Parkway in the mid-1950s Parkway traffic was routed over the Beesleys Point Bridge. However some time in the late 1950s the Parkway's own 4-lane bridge was built parallel and only 275m (900ft) away from the private bridge over Great Egg Harbor Bay.
US9 is a 20 to 30mph average signalized arterial, the main street of many settlements along the shore. It cannot compete with the Parkway and since the Parkway got its own bridge over Great Egg Harbor Bay the toll bridge has been struggling financially.
Traffic in the last years of the bridge averaged a mere 4k to 5k/day.
The bridge company closed the bridge in 2004 when it decided the tolls wouldn't support repairs needed to keep it in a safe condition. The bridge has a hinged draw bridge or bascule span that is raised for small boats.
For the past four and a half years there has been argument about who should pay for repairs or whether the bridge should be removed.
Under county ownership the Beesleys Point Bridge will become the sixth toll bridge operated by its Cape May Bridge Commission, which operates barrier island or cross bay bridges.
The state DOT is paying for $20m of repairs of the old trestle causeway under a borrowing and debt service cost sharing formula.
The state DOT will pay the full $1.3m annual debt service for the first three years while the bridge repairs are made. After the bridge is reopened to traffic the state will continue to pay 60% of the debt service. The remaining 40% will be paid by tolls.
The plan is to charge $1.50 toll one-way which at average daily traffic of 4700 both directions will generate $1.3m/yr. This is intended to cover the county's share of costs but the county will have to make up any shortfall.
Repairs to the old bridge should start in the summer of 2010, the county says, and be complete to allow reopening of the old bridge early 2012.