Townsend’s Inlet Bridge Update from County of Cape May May 19th, 2017

Townsend’s Inlet Bridge

Note: The following information regarding repairs to the Townsend’s Inlet Bridge were provided to the Borough of Avalon on Friday, May 19th, 2017.  The Townsend’s Inlet Bridge is a bridge owned, maintained, and the responsibility of the County of Cape May.  Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster informed the Borough that bicyclists and pedestrians are generally allowed to cross the span presently, but not motor vehicles.  During certain construction operations and set up time by the contractor bicycle and pedestrian access is restricted for safety reasons.  Please obey all safety instructions provided if you intend to bike or walk across the bridge.

Ocean Drive (CR619) Bridge over Townsends Inlet – Update

May 19, 2017

Regrettably the Ocean Drive (County Road No. 619) Bridge over Townsends Inlet, between Avalon and Sea Isle City, will not be in a position to open to traffic for Memorial Day weekend.  As the result of an underwater inspection being performed at that time, the bridge was closed on April 3rd due to defects discovered approximately 20 feet below the water surface on two (2) of the piles that make up the three-pile cluster on the bay end of Pier 6 on the Avalon end of the bridge.  The follow up emergency repair to Pier 6 has proven to be a very challenging undertaking.  The conditions at Townsends Inlet makes working on this needed repair very difficult.  South State, the County’s contractor, is working very close to the bridge in water depths of over 50 feet.  The inlet is known for its swift tidal currents.

South State is working 12-hour shifts on weekdays and 8-hour shifts on Saturdays, weather permitting.   The proposed repair consists of installing a new cluster of three (3) 160-foot long 24-inch diameter pipe piles on the bay end of Pier 6. This new cluster of piles is to be bolted into the existing concrete piercap.  Due to the compromised strength of the existing pier to support loads, all work needs to be performed from floating equipment placed in the inlet.

The first item of work consisted of removing tons of riprap stones that were placed around the Pier after repairs were made in 1962.  This work took two weeks working around the tides to remove all of the stones that would interfere with the installation of new piles and that were visible to the divers. Once the stones were cleared, South State installed falsework to act as a template for the installation of the new battered piles and to provide a working platform for the workers.  Due to the condition of the bridge, the falsework had to be constructed as an independent structure and not connected to the bridge or pier.  This falsework is supported on a series of steel H-piles driven into the inlet bottom.

There has been issues with the driving of the piles.  The uncertainty of encountering a dense layer of materials in which to anchor the piles into may require longer piles than anticipated. One of the piles when being driven encountered an obstruction approximately 12 feet below the inlet bottom. This pile had to be removed and is being re-installed in a slightly different configuration to avoid the obstruction.

Because of the close proximity of the placement of the piles, a portion of the existing concrete walkway and bridge railing system had to be removed. The ongoing repair work at the bridge occurs outside of the navigation channel and does interfere with marine traffic. Because of the difficult working conditions, it is uncertain as to when the bridge can be open to traffic.  In the meantime, pedestrians, fishermen and bicyclists can use the bridge. However during certain construction operations, no one is permitted in the work zone.

The original three-pile cluster, consisting of steel H-piles, were installed in the summer of 1962 to provide supplemental support at each end of four (4) piers along the Avalon approach to the bridge.  The supplemental pile supports were installed to address the drop in the inlet bottom during the 1962 nor’easter.  The pile clusters at the other three piers do not exhibit the severity of the defects that were found on Pier 6.

At their February 14, 2017 meeting, Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders engaged Greenman-Pedersen Inc., Lebanon, NJ with a local office in Ocean View, NJ, to design and prepare contract documents for underwater repairs to the Townsends Inlet Bridge, that are anticipated to be performed in the 2017-18 winter season.  This underwater inspection was being performed to gather information for this planned repair contract.  Greenman-Pedersen is leading the team of professional engineers and scientists in the design of the emergency repairs.  Maser Consulting P.A., Red Bank, NJ with a local office in Marmora, NJ, is overseeing the construction operations with underwater inspection assistance from Churchill Consulting Engineers, P.C., Berlin NJ.

As part of the federal requirements, the Townsends Inlet Bridge undergoes a re-evaluation survey of the entire structure every two (2) years; this also involves an underwater inspection of bridge.  The most recent biennial inspection of the bridge began in October 2015.  Following up on the findings of the inspection, the County initiated a program to address defects noted in the underwater inspection report by establishing funding in a bond and soliciting a consultant to perform the design.  The next re-evaluation survey of the bridge is scheduled to begin October 2017.