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    Beginning later today, the Mathis Bridge will be closed until spring

     The frozen Barnegat Bay and the Mathis Bridge in the background as seen from Seaside Park on Jan. 7, 2014 by Kevin Michelson.

    The frozen Barnegat Bay and the Mathis Bridge in the background as seen from Seaside Park on Jan. 7, 2014 by Kevin Michelson.

    Construction on the Thomas A. Mathis Bridge, the causeway that connects Toms River with the Barnegat Bay Island, begins today, officials said.

    The project contractor, Schiavone Construction Company, is scheduled to close Route 37 eastbound at the intersection of Douglas Street in Toms River, located just prior to the Mathis Bridge, at 6 p.m. today in order to shift one lane of eastbound traffic onto Route 37 westbound to utilize the J. Stanley Tunney Bridge, according to New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Schapiro. 

    Traffic will be shift back onto Route 37 eastbound after crossing the Tunney Bridge near Sunset Drive on Pelican Island, Schapiro said in a release, adding that the jughandle to turn onto Douglas Street in Toms River will remain open.

    “While the Mathis Bridge is closed, two lanes of traffic westbound and one lane eastbound will be maintained on the Tunney Bridge, separated by a moveable barrier,” the spokesman said. “Should there be a need for an evacuation, all three lanes may be made operational in the westerly direction. The Mathis Bridge will reopen by May 15, 2016 before the busy summer vacation season.”

    In addition, the Mathis Bridge will be closed to marine traffic between December 1 and March 15, 2016.

    Announced last year, the construction work involves a deck replacement, safety improvements, and mechanical and electrical work on the span, which was built in 1950. The bridge is older than the adjacent westbound Tunney Bridge.

    Construction will occur between Nov. 1 and April 30 through 2018. All three lanes on each bridge will be open to traffic between May 15 and Sept. 15. 

    The state anticipates that the work, which had been previously slated to begin last spring, will end prior to the summer of 2018. 

    The state anticipates that the project will cost approximately $74 million, with funding from the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) under the auspices of the National Highway Performance Program.

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