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New Causeway LBI Bridge Coming Soon, Along With Wildlife Habitat Improvements
The DOT is proposing to build, starting this summer (2013), a 2,400-foot-long, high level, fixed-span bridge parallel to and south of the existing Manahawkin Bay Bridge. This bridge will provide two lanes and wide shoulders in the eastbound direction.Four lanes of traffic will be maintained on the existing bridge during the construction of new bridge.
When the new bridge is completed, all traffic will be shifted to the new bridge during the major rehabilitation of the existing Manahawkin Bay Bridge, which will be performed as a separate construction contract.
According to the statement, the DOT has secured the required environmental approvals for the project and is providing improved amenities to the surrounding community, including enhanced pedestrian compatibility, recreational and tourism opportunities, and improved public access to the waterfront.
Improvements will include the construction of six parking lots along the Route 72 corridor to provide residents and visitors with improved access to the waterfront for fishing and passive recreation.
Also , the DOT is proposing the restoration of a previous dredge disposal facility at the Cedar Bonnet Island unit of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, which will include public parking and new interpretive trails to provide public access to the refuge and provide residents and visitors with additional passive recreation and tourism enhancements.
That means for the first time in more than 60 years, the public will regain access to Bonnet Island.
The former dredge disposal site, now part of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, will be transformed back to a haven for indigenous species, Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig said.
"The state DOT has been working with all of the conservation partners, the DEP, Fish and Wildlife, and NOAA on environmental impacts," Rettig said. "They were looking for a place to do mitigation to restore the lost services to the environment due to the bridge project.
"While the Manahawkin Bay bridge construction project calls for 5.5 acres of mitigation, the DOT chose to restore 41 acres of the refuge's land in Stafford, Rettig said.
Before becoming a holding depot for the intracoastal waterway dredged material, the island was considered a beautiful coastal marsh for indigenous species, Rettig said. The building of a dike around its perimeter to hold the dredge material turned saltwater marshes into freshwater areas, thereby making them unusable to the very species the refuge is working to protect.
"Quite frankly, while we do see trees out there, we have really poor wetland habitat covered with phragmites," Rettig said. "We lost marsh, and elevations grew and grew and grew.
"Phragmites are an invasive reed that can grow up to 19 feet high.The project's scope includes bringing tidal flow back into the area, creating a riparian zone and restoring lost vegetation.
"We will use all native plants," Rettig said. "The process will take some time, because the soil is not so great, and we will have to combat the phragmites.
"Some upland areas where disposal was placed will be left as is, because their cedar habitat has value for migrating songbirds, she said.
Construction is expected to begin by late next year or early 2015 and be completed by 2016.
"This is a great opportunity before us because restoration projects don't come easy," Rettig said. "The idea that we can restore tidal flow to the island 60 to 70 years after it was diked is pretty exciting for us."
Article Courtesy Of The Asbury Park Press
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