With a resolution passed in the Suffolk County Legislature last month, the final round of funding for the planning and design of a new bridge at Smith Point has been secured.
The resolution allocated $4.6 million for the planning phase, 80 percent of which will be funded through grants from the Federal Highway Administration. This leaves $920,000 to be paid through the county. The estimated complete cost for the project is $74 million.
The current bridge, which opened to traffic on July 4, 1959 after four years of construction, cost $2.5 million to build.
Construction of the bridge is expected to begin in 2021, but officials are confident that if the planning process runs smoothly, it could begin sooner. Construction is expected to last two years. The new bridge will be built 125 feet west of the current bridge, allowing continued access for beachgoers and park visitors until construction is complete. It will have a 55-foot vertical clearance, compared to the current bridge, which has a 22-foot clearance.
The new bridge will have several differences, most notably that it will be built without a drawbridge. Officials say this will allow for a constant flow of traffic both over and under the bridge. The new structure will also have a wider shoulder and sidewalks, which will provide an easy and safe access for pedestrian traffic.
“That’s a really important feature that the new bridge will have,” said Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman, who represents Smith Point in the 3rd District.
Sunderman, who said he first heard of concerns from people on his campaign for office last year, has been pushing for this project, which was passed unanimously in the Legislature. He added that it would be funded through the capital projects budget over multiple years.
Sunderman said that the fire apparatus that covers the Smith Point region can’t get over the current bridge, which is 59 years old, so a smaller truck must be used in emergency situations. He added that the bridge needs yearly repairs that are temporary and cannot fix the larger issues that are important to residents. Officials have also had difficulty finding the parts to repair the drawbridge, and said the negative impacts of erosion are increasingly troublesome.
“I think you’re hitting multiple different wins for the boating community, the pedestrians, and the free flow of traffic,” Sunderman said. “We’re just going to continue to make our community the success we want it to be.”
After the bridge is completed, the old structure is expected to be taken down, but officials are unsure exactly what will be done with the materials. The county Department of Public Works will run a competitive bidding process to find a company for the construction.