Sea Isle City —
New Jersey Transit indefinitely suspended all of its bus services to Sea Isle City as of Saturday, May 19, due in part to a recently imposed lower weight limit on the Townsend’s Inlet Bridge.
The only two busses on New Jersey Transit’s route that travel to Sea Isle City, 315 and 319, both used the Townsend’s Inlet Bridge for entry into Sea Isle.
The bridge is owned by the Cape May County Bridge Commission, and is inspected every two years, according to Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster.
At the previous inspection, the bridge had been cleaned and polished and what little steel remained on the moveable span of the bridge was more visible, Foster said.
The Bridge Commission is coming up with a repair scheme, Foster said, but, following the most recent inspection, it was recommended that the bridge’s weight restriction be lowered from 15 tons to three tons.
Foster was unsure when the repairs to the bridge will be finished, but estimated it would be within the next month.
A three-ton weight restriction can accommodate a single-family car, SUV or mini van, Foster said.
The Bridge Commission also is unsure when repairs will be complete, but Nancy Snyder, of New Jersey Transit, said that New Jersey Transit’s busses weighed between 15 and 18 tons.
The bus has taken a detour into Sea Isle City since January. The bus needs to make a U-Turn to accommodate the detour.
New Jersey Transit said with the summer crowds, making the U-Turn would be unsafe.
Snyder said rider numbers in the summer for bus route 315, averaged 10 on weekdays, seven on Saturdays and nine on Sunday. The 319 averaged seven riders per day on the weekday, three on Saturday and eight on Sunday.
Snyder said ridership had no affect on New Jersey Transit’s decision to suspend the service.
However, Lana Samuels of Ocean City and founder of the charity People In Crisis, Inc., believes the suspension affects too many people.
Samuels does not drive and takes the bus to Sea Isle City to travel door to door to spread information and collect funds for People In Crisis, a nonprofit group that advocates for people in Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pa., who are disabled or in need or medical care and do not have sufficient medical insurance to cover their needs. Samuels also finds locals who are eligible for help through her charity by going door to door in Sea Isle City, among other places.
In a release Samuels sent out, she said many of her clients with People In Crisis rely on the bus for their sole transportation. Being without can affect their access to medical care.
Samuels said she didn’t think New Jersey Transit considered traveling through JFK Boulevard for access into Sea Isle City or, instead of making a U-Turn to detour around city streets to turn the bus.
When asked about alternate routes, Snyder said New Jersey Transit “explored all options for when the weight restriction was imposed on Townsend’s Inlet Bridge. We found there was no option other than to suspend the service.”
Samuels said she spoke with several New Jersey Transit bus drivers who feel it is safe to make a U-Turn on JFK Boulevard in the summer.
She added many drivers felt they could not speak out against New Jersey Transit’s decision.
Samuels said she has been in contact with Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio and State Sen. Jeff Van Drew to attempt to rectify the problem.
Samuels said the closest bus stop to Sea Isle City was several miles away in either Avalon or Ocean City.
She said she spoke with an elderly person who would have to walk several miles to the Avalon bus stop and another woman who worked in Philadelphia who relied on New Jersey Transit to get to her job.
Samuels said she met another woman whose only doctor for her child was in Sea Isle.
“No one wants to speak out because they don’t want to cause friction in her town,” Samuels said. “I have to be their voice.”
Samuels said she intended to hold a rally in upcoming weeks if she did not see progress in overturning the suspension.