When it comes to the Oceanic Bridge closure, there are two separate issues that officials say have been somehow lumped together: the present emergency closure; and a coming closure to address what have been "long scheduled upgrades."
"They are two entirely separate matters; and, one has nothing to do with the other," Monmouth County Spokeswoman Laura Kirkpatrick said on Friday afternoon. "The present closure is an emergency closure not related to the span itself. Another closure has been slated for Jan. 7 and has been in the works for some time. During that distinctly different closure, safety upgrades will be made, such as the replacement of barrier gates. The timetable (of roughly three weeks) is dependent upon weather conditions."
Following a Thursday morning mudslide, notices on both Rumson and Middletown's websites mistakenly said that the Oceanic Bridge will be closed for three weeks to allow for the installation of safety upgrades on the span itself.
County officials, however, stressed that Thursday's emergency closure has nothing to do with the bridge itself and/or any repairs or upgrades to the span, for which a major revamp was completed in May.
Currently, the bridge is and has been closed to traffic since late Thursday morning and will remain closed until a fix is in place for what was deemed a "slope failure" on the Middletown side, Monmouth County Principal Engineer Aiman Eltohamy said.
"Nothing is wrong with the bridge itself," the engineer said. "The embankment (or slope) of land on the side next to the road (near Navesink River Road) just gave way. It's a very high embankment, and its face let go and fell into the roadway, leaving dirt and brush all over.
"It was cleaned up this (Thursday) morning by county personnel and a temporary fix was put in place, but due to the potential of more failure, we just had to close the road (and entry to bridge on both Rumson and Middletown sides)."
Hurricane Sandy's effects weakened the base of the steep embankments by the Navesink River, Eltohamy added, and with last night's rain, "apparently it just couldn't hold itself any longer ..."
The situation, he said, is being evaluated thoroughly and once a fix is deemed fail-proof, the bridge and road stretches leading to it will be reopened as soon as possible.
That is one issue, one closure.
However, what county officials said was a mixed message on the Rumson website says something different, lumping the two closures together:
"Due to a mudslide on the Middletown side, the Oceanic Bridge will be closed for 3 weeks to allow proper remediation of the problem, and to install new gates and a camera system on the span itself."
Not the case, county officials say. Yes, the bridge will be closed starting Jan. 7 for the safety upgrades. But, no, they have nothing to do with the emergency closing and Thursday's mudslide.
A message on the Middletown site says something similar, though does not mention the mudslide or lump the two together, but only speaks to the Jan. 7 closure:
"On or about January 7, 2013 the Oceanic Bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic for 21 calendar days.
The detour allows construction crews to preform necessary safety upgrades and repairs to the county-owned bridge located between Rumson and Middletown. The work will not impact marine traffic."
Rumson police issued an advisory message through the borough's alert system at 11:51 a.m. on Thursday, which said only, "THE OCEANIC BRIDGE WILL BE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE."
Cement barriers block the bridge's entrances on the Rumson and Middletown sides with signage and cones.
The weather conditions were blustery at the bridge mid-Thursday afternoon.
Check back for updates concerning when the bridge will be open again from the emergency closure.