How long will it take to repair the 80-year-old Bayville Bridge? That’s what people wanted to know at a July 12 meeting hosted by Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan. They also wanted to know when the repairs will start, and how much residents will be inconvenienced.
The meeting, at the Bayville Firehouse, was packed with concerned residents, some of whom were angry, while others calmly begged for answers. Kenneth Arnold, the county’s commissioner of public works, was on hand, as was Brian Schneider, the deputy county executive. Bayville Mayor Bob De Natale and Mill Neck Mayor Peter Quick sat with them, as did Officer Christopher Lovelace of the Nassau County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct.
It had already been a bad couple of weeks in Bayville, with stand-still traffic due to the bridge’s malfunction. On June 29, some drivers waited six hours for it to become operational.
“The fact that the bridge is in the current condition it’s in is just not right,” said Schneider. “There is capital money for it, and the design work is 75 percent done for the rehabilitation of the bridge.”
It’s an old bridge, he continued, and parts are no longer available. “Now if there is a problem, the guys work hard to manufacture a part that doesn’t exist.”
Arnold, a 30-year veteran of the county’s Department of Public Works, said the bridge isn’t an overnight fix. “In the summer of 2015, there were numerous problems, and a maintenance contractor did the repairs,” he said. “I asked on July 1 that we limit the bridge openings. We don’t have to open it for every single boat. Most of our problems are during hot weather.”
Schneider and Arnold said they expected the repair plans to be complete by the end of September, and to be approved by November or December.
A couple of residents complained that the design was supposed to have been done in May, which neither Arnold nor Schneider appeared to realize. Former Bayville Mayor Paul Rupp confirmed that the residents were right. “Paperwork was submitted to all of the mayors saying the plans would be done by May 2018,” he said, adding that it was important that the September deadline be adhered to. “I think residents should control their own destiny and get a committee together to work with Mr. Arnold’s office.”
What are the plans?
Some of the repair information and schedule shared by Arnold included:
The entire structure of the bridge will be redone. It will be a 30-40-year fix.
All electrical will be upgraded.
The sidewalk will be widened with the road reduced by 3 feet to a width of 27 feet. The county believes this will slow cars down.
The control house on the bridge will be upgraded, its electrical systems overhauled, and it will be computerized.
Loose concrete on girders below the bridge will be replaced and lighting will be upgraded.
There will be no work between Memorial or Labor days.
There will be detours during the work and the bridge will be closed for up to four months.
The bridge will be ADA compliant, but the pathway leading to the bridge will not.
Repair work will be complete by 2021.
What residents had to say
Some residents spoke of safety issues. They worried that if the bridge is closed for repairs during winter, which was when West Shore Road was closed when it was repaired, people will have to go through a windy detour. “People came home at night at 7 p.m. when West Shore Road was repaired, and it was dark,” one man said. “The black ice was incredible. Spring is the preferred time for the construction.”
Narrowing the bridge will mean that there may be accidents from large trucks, who already use the bridge, the man continued.
“Everyone wants something done yesterday,” said former Bayville Mayor Vicki Siegel. “There are only two ways out of Bayville. The bridge has to be done expeditiously. During other repairs I see people working double shifts. When the bridge is raised can’t at least that time have double shifts?”
Schneider said the county would consider the public’s concerns. “If you want an omelet you have to break some eggs,” he said. “There will be some inconvenience. We will look into the idea of double shifts.”
As for the suggestion by former Mayor Doug Watson to elevate the roadway, Schneider was doubtful that it would work. “There will always be a situation for something bigger,” he said. “We’ve cut the openings of the bridge down by a third. We are exploring reducing it more.”
Dave Gugerty, a former Bayville trustee, spoke to the Guardian after the meeting. He mentioned the Bayville Bridge App that the county is considering. “I feel strongly that the county must communicate regarding all bridge closures and repair plans in real time by text message or better yet, a dedicated Bayville Bridge App,” he said.
He sees the repair of the bridge as the latest in a series of large scale storm resiliency capital projects, which the county and village carried out following major storms dating back to the Nor’easter of 1992.
“The projects include work on the dune at Soundside Beach; East End drainage and sump adjacent to West Harbor Drive; $5 million in street raising/traffic calming on Bayville Avenue in front of “the Stands” and, most recently, the complete rebuilding of West Shore Road following Superstorm Sandy,” he said. “These projects have made our village and its residents safer by allowing us to get out even during significant storms and rain events. Hopefully a fully functioning Bayville Bridge will take away one of the last remaining barriers to getting out of our beautiful village.”