Dorset Avenue Bridge


VENTNOR – A request for support from Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson has aroused the concern of the Board of Commissioners about the financial impact of a bridge project that could affect the safety of residents living in two sections of the city. The county has asked the city to approve a resolution supporting the county’s application for grant funding to make repairs to the Dorset Avenue bridge. The extent of the work to be performed and its effects on the city is unknown at this time, local officials said.

“We have no details other than what’s in Dennis Levinson’s letter,” Commissioner of Public Safety Tim Kriebel said.

The letter states the county is planning to replace mechanical and electrical systems and do “some structural work” on the Dorset Avenue drawbridge.

“The costs of the that work will be significant,” Levinson stated in the letter.

Levinson said a grant writer has been consulted to apply for funding through the federal bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment Act to offset the cost of repairing the bridge, which is located on a major access road in the resort community. A resolution of support is required from Ventnor because the city will be impacted by the work, the letter states.

In a discussion at the Sept. 8 commission meeting, Kriebel stated stating that because the historic bridge is the only connection between the city proper and the Ventnor Heights area, public safety of residents could be impacted.

If the repair work requires the bridge be in the open position and therefore closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic for any length of time, a second Police Station would need to be set up in the Heights. The city has a second firehouse on Wellington Avenue, but the city may have to station firefighters, ambulances and engines at both firehouses, and the two stations may not be readily able to provide backup during major emergencies, Kriebel said.

“We need to have access to respond,” he said.

Mayor Beth Holtzman expressed concern about the financial impact on taxpayers if the city has to “man two stations.”

“If we have to man the Heights, it will be very costly,” Holtzman said. “We will have to charge back all the overtime to the county.”

Holtzman said when she received the letter in early August, she reached out to the county administrator, but details are sparse at this time.

Dorset Avenue is a county roadway and the county is responsible for maintaining the bridge as well.

Kriebel said Levinson’s letter generated questions about the associated costs of providing adequate public safety coverage in both sections of the city, which includes the beachfront side and the bayside of the town, where many year-round residents live.

Bridge work in the past has had a cascading effect on the costs of provide public safety coverage, Kriebel said.

He said the chiefs of the Fire and Police Departments will continue to investigate the costs for manpower and equipment.

Although the repair project could be more than a year away, “Our public safety departments want to know all the information up front,” Kriebel said.

Commissioner of Public Works Lance Landgraf said in an effort to be transparent with the public, the city will share information about the project as soon as it knows more about it.

Officials said the city could reach out to the U.S. Coast Guard for backup during emergencies and to ensure the Intracoastal Waterway is navigable.

Ventnor Business Association President Brenda Dowd said the work could have a severe impact on the business community, especially if the bridge is out for any length of time.

“I get it that it’s the county’s bridge and road, but I just asked that the Ventnor Business Association be given as much information and notice as possible so we can give a heads-up to our members,” she said.

Dowd said the information being provided at this time is “spotty” at best.

“Any bridge work is inconvenient but closing the bridge hurts businesses on both sides of the bridge,” she said.

Holtzman said the bridge closure would also impact students who live in the Heights attending the Ventnor Educational Community Complex.

“How will the kids get back and forth from school?” she asked.

The shortest connection between the two sections of the city would be to travel Wellington Avenue to West End Avenue and over the Albany Avenue bridge in Atlantic City. The intersection of West End and Albany avenues floods often in heavy rain and at exceptionally high tides.

Longer alternate routes to access the mainland would be to travel to Margate’s Downbeach Express or the Longport bridge.

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Categories: Ventnor

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.