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PKF Mark III Reconstructs 50-Year-Old Route 30 Over Beach Thorofare/Absecon Boulevard Bridge Near Atlantic City

by: Larry Bernstein
Crews for PKF Mark III work on a section of the Route 30 Bridge near Atlantic City.
Crews for PKF Mark III work on a section of the Route 30 Bridge near Atlantic City.
Atlantic City has a colorful history. It has been a tourist town for many years. These days, tourists are drawn to Atlantic City for its casinos, as much as for it beaches and boardwalks. One route to get to the famous Atlantic City and its attractions is Route 30, which is known locally as the White Horse Pike. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is working on the Route 30 Over Beach Thorofare/Absecon Boulevard Bridge.

Originally constructed in 1946, the nearly 500-foot-long bridge is aged. The lift span portion of the bridge is 50 years old. The bridge, which is six lanes and has an average daily traffic count of approximately 42,000 vehicles, needs repairs and upgrades to make it meet today’s standards. Upon completion of the project, the NJDOT says drivers will experience a safer and more reliable bridge.

Route 30 is a major thoroughfare in the area as it acts as an evacuation route and is deemed vital to Atlantic City’s economy.

Upgrading to Current Standards
Included in the project is an upgrade of the mechanical and electrical equipment and structuring steel. The upgrade will allow the bridge to meet current standards and improve performance. The existing backup up generator is 50 years old and located inside the gatehouse. It will be replaced with a new generator that will be located outside, creating more room in the gate house. The sidewalk will be replaced using a lighter concrete. “This will reduce the weight on the bascule span and therefore reduce the strain on lifting the bridge,” says Steve Schapiro, Press Manager for NJDOT.

Route 30 Over Beach Thorofare is a single-leaf bascule drawbridge. The bridge needs to be raised as boats to navigate the Beach Thorofare Channel to get to the Absecon Inlet and to the Atlantic Ocean, which is just a few miles away. The deck is approximately 20 feet over the water. Structural repairs to the movable bascule span are another element of the project.

“By upgrading the lift-span components, there is less potential for future maintenance issues requiring the bridge to be out of service, which benefits both boaters and motorists,” Schapiro says. Many of the components are aged and therefore more likely to breakdown. Upgrading the electrical and mechanical parts with more modern components, should reduce the possibility of mechanical or electrical problems, resulting in fewer interruptions to traveling public.

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Finally, the project will extend the sidewalk across the Venice Lagoon to Grammercy Avenue – a span of about 700 feet – as well as improvements to barrier and warning gates, railings, and drainage. These components are also being updated to meet current design and safety standards.

Access Challenges
Working over water is always a challenge and has been with this project. “Getting access to the bridge to actually do the work has been a challenge,” Schapiro says.

To gain access to the bridge and do the marine work and steel deck work, the team has used tugboats, barges, lifts, backhoes, loaders, pile drivers, and welding machines.

NJDOT coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard to close the navigational channel. This has allowed the contractor to place barges and other equipment under the bridge while maintaining traffic on the bridge. The channel will reopen to boaters after May 15, 2022, according to Schapiro.

The much-talked-about supply chain back-ups have also presented the team with issues. Along with the pandemic, the supply chain issues have led to longer than standard lead times to get materials. “NJDOT and the contractor have worked to order some items in advance that would normally have a long lead time to try to minimize the effect on the project schedule,” Schapiro says.

Staging the project has also been a challenge. According to Schapiro and NJDOT, construction is being done in stages to minimize the disruption to vehicular and marine traffic. Because Atlantic City relies on tourists for its economy, access to the town needs to be maintained, particularly during the peak summer season. Therefore, work is suspended during the summer, and all three lanes of traffic are open in each direction. During the rest of the year, the team is permitted to close two lanes (in each direction) while working.

Working Around Storms
Serving as the contractor on the project is PKF Mark III. Headquartered in the Philadelphia suburbs, PKF Mark III has worked on other NJDOT projects. They were awarded the contract based on their low bid.

The cost for the construction is $19.6 million. The entire project is being funded by the federal government.

The project began in January 2021 and was originally scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2023. However, the project is three to six months behind schedule due to the weather and other factors. “The area has experienced a number of significant storms this winter, as well supply chain issues,” Schapiro says. The updated completion date is the winter of 2023.

When the Route 30 Over Beach Thorofare/Absecon Boulevard Bridge project finishes, tourists and locals alike will have better access to Atlantic City. The bridge will be safer, more reliable, and up to date. Whether it’s to gamble the night away, relax on the beach, or wander along the boardwalk, Route 30 will be a good option for Atlantic City visitors.

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