The Bayville Bridge has stood for more than 80 years as one of two entrances into the Village of Bayville. While both residents and tourists alike have depended on the bridge for years, disrepair and continuing malfunctions has plagued this crucial connection between Bayville and the rest of Nassau County. County Legislator Josh Lafazan said frustration over the issues with the bridge began to boil over after it got stuck in its open-position, bringing traffic to a standstill at the start of the Fourth of July weekend in 2017.
“That’s a big tourist weekend for Bayville,” Lafazan said. “We’re facing the problem of crumbling infrastructure all over the country, and this bridge is a prime example of this on a local level. It’s been neglected for too long.”
As the bridge continued to be impassible, sometimes for as long as six hours at a time, the Nassau County Department of Public Works took on the project to repair the Bayville Bridge last year, with the design work completed in 2019. On Sept. 3, Nassau County DPW officially closed the bid for the Bayville Bridge Rehabilitation project. With four bids received and under review by DPW and the New York State Department of Transportation, the county is looking to award the contract as soon as possible.
“They’ve told us that they’ll award the bid in the next couple of days,” said Robert De Natale, Bayville’s mayor. “The county has worked closely with us to ensure that this will be a new and effective bridge.”
The two-year project details numerous structural, mechanical and electrical replacements and upgrades needed for the bridge, including reinforcement of the bridge’s main girders, transforming the sidewalks to be ADA compliant, replacing the worn out system that opens and closes the bridge and upgrading the electric system to include new computerized control systems. There will also be work done to reduce corrosion of the bridge, as well as upgrading the electrical room to meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements and to prevent potential water damage.
While construction is estimated to start by February 2020, the bridge won’t experience major lane closures until September, according to DPW. Local elected officials said it was important that any obstructions to the bridge wait until after the summer months since Bayville is a beach community, where the economy thrives on summer tourism. From September to November 2020, the bridge will experience partial closures, and then again starting on February 2021. Complete lane closures will take place from mid-April to mid-May and throughout the month of November 2021. During that time, the only entrance and exit to the Village of Bayville would be by way of Bayville Road on the west side.
DPW has also included clauses in the contract that would penalize developers $10,000 per day for every additional day of full-lane closures outside the projected schedule and $5,000 per day for every additional day of partial-lane closures. Joe Casillo, the chair of the Bayville Bridge Rehabilitation Committee, which met with Nassau County DPW twice to discuss the project, said the schedule for the repairs would bring minimal disruption to the community.
“We’ve been promised that the project will be as short as possible,” Casillo said, “and that there would not be much impact on the quality of life for local residents.”
While two, non-consecutive months with no Bayville Bridge is far from ideal, former-Bayville Mayor Victoria Siegel, who the county named the bridge after back in 2010, said there would never be a convenient time to close the bridge for repairs. She said that the county should do what they believe is necessary within an appropriate time frame. Siegel added that she was worried that if construction were to be delayed any longer, the cost and duration of the repairs would go up.
“Leaving it as is is not an option,” Siegel said. “The bridge is the first thing we see when we drive into the village, letting us know that we’re home. It has a special meaning for us, especially for me.”
Lafazan echoed Siegel’s worries and explained that the urgent need to rehabilitate the bridge was made “ironically clear” when residents were told last year that some of the current parts of the bridge were so old that replacement parts weren’t readily available for purchase in the U.S.
“Our government waited until the problems started rather than investing in our infrastructure,” Lafazan said. “I hope that the repairs will be a transparent process between government and their constituents. The people [of Bayville] have suffered long enough at the hands of incompetence.”
DPW officials said they would keep the public informed through an outreach program and use social media to reach out to residents directly. Construction of the bridge is expected to end by February 2022.