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Business owners say they are losing business due to Route 71 bridge being stuck in up position

The bridge separates Avon-by-the-Sea and Belmar. The drawbridge has to be in the up position for now to accommodate boat traffic.

Jim Murdoch

Apr 19, 2024, 5:09 PM

Updated 41 days ago

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A broken drawbridge stuck in the up position is leading to a drop in Main Street revenue in two Jersey Shore towns, according to the business owners.
Repairs on the Route 71 bridge connecting Avon-by-the-Sea and Belmar could last at least another month, according to new information from the New Jersey Department of Transportation released on Friday.
The mayors of both Avon-by-the-Sea and Belmar met with NJDOT on Friday. The goal is to have the bridge repaired by Memorial Day Weekend.
“The bridge being down or being up basically made this a dead-end street,” said Brennen Carroll, whose family owns the Bing’s Beach House Deli in Avon.
“It’s definitely gotten a lot slower. We don’t have the foot traffic we see when it is down,” he said.
Sales are down 20%-45% at times, say store owners along Main Street in both towns.
“When you take the detour you get off right here at Eighth and it comes the other way, you don’t even go by the shop. We aren’t getting any stopping traffic anymore,” said Julie Walworth, manager of Main Street Donuts Belmar.
Problems began on March 1 when a mechanical failure prevented the 92-year-old Route 71 bridge from opening, blocking boat traffic. Crews raised the bridge to the up position because legally marine traffic has the right of way. The unwanted side-effect – a complete blockage of all Main Street foot and vehicular traffic, pushing everyone to the Route 35 bridge and away from downtown.
“We have seen an effect, especially on the slower days of the week. They’ve been more dead than normal,” said Delia Smith, manager at Rainbow Cleaners in Belmar.
“Our sandwiches are good but for people driving on Route 35, it’s a little difficult for folks to rationalize to come off that major highway to come see us and it feels like they’re just going someplace else for the time being,” added Carroll.
A spokesperson for NJDOT tells News 12 they are in the process of building replacement parts for the bridge. They reiterate that their goal is to have it open by Memorial Day. Until then, these detours will remain in place.


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