A $9.9 million project to rehabilitate the bascule span grid decking, or the porous grid opening that is drawn upwards to allow boats to travel through Reynolds Channel is on schedule and is expected to be completed in late January.
“The Atlantic Beach Bridge as we know it today was opened in 1952,” said Vincent Grasso, executive director of the Nassau County Bridge Authority. “Interestingly, if you see the current construction on the bridge this is the first time there’s been a major rehab of the bridge since 1952.”
Grasso addressed a small audience in the community room of the Peninsula Public Library in Lawrence, for a town hall meeting hosted by State Assemblywoman Melissa Miller (R-Atlantic Beach) to discuss the current state and future of the Atlantic Beach Bridge, on Nov. 8.
The bridge connects the Nassau Expressway, otherwise known as State Route 878, to Park Street in Atlantic Beach, and costs $2 to cross per trip, $15 for a 20-trip card for $15 or motorists can purchase an unlimited-trip decal, which costs Nassau County residents $130 and non-residents $175.
Once the decking is completed the Bridge Authority will tackle smaller issues such as repaving, landscaping and storm hardening, while they work with the community to decide on future plans for the toll plaza. Although the changes won’t be implemented for around five to seven years the community has to decide if they want to keep the current system or transition to the EZ Pass and have no toll booths.
The Nassau County Bridge Authority was created by state legislation and operates completely autonomously, apart from their employees being hired through the county’s civil service department.
Grasso recommends maintaining the present toll system as EZ Pass, a private company, begins by charging a small fraction of the tolls then increases its percentage in subsequent contract negotiations, he said.
This would force the Bridge Authority to increase the cost of the toll, something Grasso said they know they don’t have to do for at least the next five years, and hope to not have to do until 2033.
Additionally, an open road system where cameras identity license plates without forcing vehicles to stop concerns the authority as speeding is already a major issue in the area. “People drive very fast, they’re maniacs,” Grasso said. “People come off 878 and they’re flying … A lot of Atlantic Beach residents like the booths because they serve as a sort of barrier to the community.”
None of the residents in attendance spoke out in favor of either of these changes. Paddy Nyman worries that open road tolling would make the area more hazardous to drivers and pedestrians, but was very relieved to hear the fare wouldn’t be going up.
“With two kids going to school in Lawrence you can go back and forth ten times in a day,” she said, “[the cards] are kind of like our Christmas presents to each other, we have three cars now and each needs their own pass.”
David Sharin, also of Atlantic Beach, occasionally has some trouble getting his decal to scan, but that’s his biggest issue. “I’m okay with the system now, I’m concerned a lot more people may use the bridge if there’s EZ Pass and there’s already so much traffic through Atlantic Beach and Long Beach,” he said.