Monmouth County Engineer Joe Ettore promises the Hubbards Bridge replacement will be worth it, just as long as residents can stomach about four months of detours.
At the first of two public presentations scheduled, Ettore addressed area residents at a forum Wednesday night in Red Bank during which he outlined the county's plan to replace the bridge that connects the borough and Middletown. The county engineer also reviewed the impact of closing down a main thoroughfare that is crossed by an estimated 17,500 vehicles a day.
The $12.5 million project — funded entirely with federal money — has been more than 10 years in the making, as officials have looked toward replacing the current causeway which was never intended to be permanent.
Despite the potential traffic problems, when the new bridge is complete, Ettore believes it will be a source of pride for both towns.
Currently, the Hubbards Bridge comprises two lanes and a narrow, rarely-traversed sidewalk. The unappealing bulk look of the bridge is largely owning to its temporary placement, a look Ettore says the county plans to dramatically upgrade with the new bridge.
Based on architectural renderings set up on easels throughout Red Bank's council chambers, one primary focus of the bridge plan is to provide an attractive aesthetic quality. In keeping with the historic look of the area, the replacement plan calls for a brick facade, attractive light standards, and other architectural accouterments that will turn what has long been considered a back door into the Red Bank gateway.
When it came to designing the new bridge, access was also a factor, Ettore said. The replacement bridge will include widened shoulders and two six-foot-wide sidewalks. The current bridge has one narrow sidewalk.
The width of the sidewalks is important, Ettore said, because it allows people to walk side by side making crossing the bridge on foot less of a chore. Ettore said the plan allows for the bridge to serve as a scenic overlook of the Navesink River, too, for those who plan to walk it.
When Red Bank asked the county to include additional access to the waterfront, planners obliged, carving out a riverside walking area and inserting it into the plan, he added.
The bridge replacement plan has been developed over the course of more than a decade. Some of the original plans called for the bridge to be shut down and traffic detoured for the entire length of the replacement project — about two years.
The newest plan, however, should only result in a bridge closure of about four months should construction move smoothly. That's because the new bridge is being built alongside the current causeway. The shutdown will occur when the county connects the new bridge to the shoreline.
Wednesday's meeting is one of several the county has organized to make Red Bank and Middletown officials and residents aware of the project. Ettore and the rest of the county planning crew will take their act on the road to Middletown when they present the plan at River Plaza Elementary School Monday at 6:30 p.m.