SCRAMBLED EGG HARBOR - Collaboration key to successful bridge replacement
PROJECT: Rte. 52 Causeway Replacement Contract A
LOCATION: Somers Point to Ocean City, N.J.
OWNER: New Jersey DOT
DESIGNER: Michael Baker Jr. Inc.
CONTRACTORS: George Harms Construction Co. Inc. (general contractor) and AECOM (construction manager)
COST: $143 million
START DATE: May 2006
COMPLETION DATE: October 2009
Ocean City and Somers Point residents had the chance to completely rethink the Rte. 52 Causeway after inspections determined that the 1933-built structure was in poor to serious condition and had to be replaced.
The causeway stretches 2.2 miles from Somers Point, N.J., at the south end to Ocean City, N.J., at the north. Along the way, the bridge passes over several islands, a couple of shipping channels and a couple of other waterways, all part of Great Egg Harbor Bay.
The old causeway consisted of two low-level bridges over waterways in the middle and a drawbridge at each end over a navigable waterway. The new causeway will be a high-level bridge, partly so it cannot be swamped by storms.
In width, the new Rte. 52 Causeway consists of four 12-ft vehicle lanes with 5-ft inside shoulders, 8-ft outside shoulders and a 10-ft pedestrian lane along the southbound side of the road for a total width of 84 ft.
The Rte. 52 Causeway is a critical evacuation route as well as a path to the major tourist destination of Ocean City. Its replacement is one of the largest projects ever undertaken by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT). The project is so big, in fact, that NJDOT and the designer, Michael Baker Jr. Inc., decided to split it into two contracts: Contract A replaced the two low-level bridges of the central causeway; Contract B replaced the two drawbridges over navigation channels at the ends of the causeway and the improvements at each end.
Critical to the design of the new causeway was listening to the local community. Extensive coordination was required with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Designing the highway involved the development of complex construction staging plans and maintenance- and protectionof-traffic plans. Public outreach involved a steering committee and community partnering team with fi ve separate task forces addressing issues such as aesthetics and traffic management.
Baker scrambled to redesign the bridge after initial bids came in $60 million higher than expected. In two months, Baker had the bridge redesigned, with a revised touchdown area near the new visitor center on Rainbow Island. Instead of precast concrete-segmental box girders, Baker developed an alternative superstructure design using the more readily available prestressed concrete I-girders.
The construction area is critical to endangered species and protected birds, fi sh, shellfi sh, sea turtles and plants. Baker was limited to brief seasonal windows for construction activity. Among other innovations, Baker and the NJDOT proposed and received permission to drive piles within watertight cofferdams during the restricted period between April 1 and June 30, a plan that protected the environment and sped up construction.
“This project is so much more than a bridge replacement,” said NJDOT Field Manager Tony Guerrieri. “We are helping shape Somers Point and Ocean City in a positive way, and better serving motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, fi shermen, boaters and other tourists and year-round residents.”