Bridge opening reconnects Somers Point, Ocean City

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Transportation Commissioner James Simpson thanks members of the team who helped complete the bridge project. They are, from left, director of project management Rick Crum, state director of construction and materials Kiran Patel, project manager Frank Inverso, bridge engineer Dave Lambert and state assistant commissioner of construction Richard Hammer.
SOMERS POINT – With scenic views of the Great Egg Harbor Bay, John F. Kennedy Park served as the ideal place to welcome in a new era of the Route 52 causeway.

At a ceremony Thursday, May 24 to officially open the bridge, Mayor Jack Glasser and the city served as host to New Jersey Department of Transportation officials, dignitaries and many of the people who worked on the $400 million project.
Glasser said the view from the park is enhanced by the new bridge spans and stressed its importance to the region.
“It means so much to Somers Point and all of South Jersey. I really ought to be thankful and I want to be thankful for everyone that either lobbied for it, engineered, planned and especially worked on this great project that made it what it is today,” he said.
Glasser specifically thanked the people who worked directly with the city to help smooth over rough patches during the project.
“I want to thank the residents and businesses in Somers Point for being so patient and knowing that the end product will be this great project, and I thank you all,” he said.
“As many of you know, I come out here quite often to enjoy this view – and now over my right shoulder you can see through the Ship Channel bridge and in through the Longport bridge the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in many years. So I invite you to come out here some sunny morning and see the sun glistening off the Atlantic Ocean, and you’ll know why I’m proud to be the mayor of Somers Point. And I’m so exceptionally thankful this bridge is completed and done.”
Glasser said after the event that he sent a letter to the state requesting the Route 52 bridge be named in honor of Master Commandant Richard Somers of the U.S. Navy. He said in the letter that it was only fitting the new bridge be named after the city’s favorite son and war hero who learned to sail on the waters the bridge now crosses.
The bridge it replaced was named the Howard S. Stainton Memorial Causeway, built in 1933.
NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson welcomed everyone to the ceremony, which proceeded via trolley across the new bridge to a ribbon cutting ceremony at its foot on the Ocean City side.
“Take a look now what we’ve built. We’ve built four bridges, not two. Two large bridges, a highway, two smaller bridges, bike lanes, fishing piers, a two-story tourist facility; this is more than complete streets. This is like, so much about quality of life and about really appreciating and enjoying the place,” Simpson Said. “This $400 million bridge you see behind me is the most expensive bridge the state has ever built.”
He said the 2.2-mile span is accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists and noted that bicycling can be the most efficient way to travel in the summertime.
Simpson said he drove over the bridge with his family and it was a beautiful sight. He likened it to flying an airplane.
“You’re up maybe 80 feet high, and you start to make your approach to Ocean City on a clear day like today without fog you can see the ocean. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing. This will last for generations. This is what transportation projects are all about,” said Simpson.
U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the project is welcome to anyone who has been stuck waiting for the lift bridge to close.
“This is a great example of a partnership that’s going to serve the community well,” he said.
Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian said he felt that the city always had input on the project and thanked everyone for the collaboration.
“This bridge is fantastic. I cannot to begin to highlight all of the opportunities for the residents of Ocean City and Somers Point and Cape May and Atlantic counties and all the families that visit our area,” Gillian said. “The addition of this bridge and all the features of this project immediately enhance public safety, boating … ecotourism and recreation.”
MacArthur Boulevard in Somers Point has been widened as part of the project. The former Somers Point circle at the foot of the causeway has been eliminated and replaced with a four-way signalized intersection with crosswalks that will link pedestrians and bicyclists to the bridge sidewalk.
The state broke ground on the project in Ocean City in October 2006 with the first, $145 million phase undertaken by George Harms Construction Company. The second phase began in 2009 in Somers Point by Route 52 Constructors – a joint venture by R.E. Pierson Construction Co. and Wagman Construction Inc. under a $256 million contract.
Other features including fishing piers, boat ramps, parking lots and the Ocean City Visitors Center are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Photos by Shaun Smith

Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser says the bridge is a welcome improvement and enhances the view from John F. Kennedy Park.   U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo of Ventnor thanks local and state officials for their cooperation on the Route 52 bridge project.   New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson welcomes the crowd at John F. Kennedy Park.

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