Five days earlier than anticipated and on the cusp of a Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge closing, the Oceanic Bridge is open to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
As of early evening, all barriers and signage had been removed and traffic was traveling across the bridge.
Monmouth County Spokeswoman Laura Kirkpatrick said tonight that the bridge opened between 3:30 and 4 p.m.; and the reason for no advance notice from the county, she explained, was simply because the crews ended up finishing ahead of schedule, without knowing for certain that all would be wrapped up as soon as it was.
"The bridge was scheduled to re-open on Jan. 28," Kirkpatrick said. "Engineers and construction crews ended up completing the work and testing ahead of schedule, so they just opened it to traffic, knowing that it would be good news for all."
Now the Rumson-Sea Bright bridge is scheduled to close on or about Jan. 28 on weekdays for similar repairs. Tonight, digital signs on the bridge indicated that and also reinforced a Sea Bright curfew still in effect on side streets in the borough during the evenings and into the mornings.
Original report, earlier in the day, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday:
Monmouth County officials have confirmed that the Oceanic Bridge is close to being open to traffic.
"It is not open yet, but I'm cautiously optimistic," Monmouth County spokeswoman Laura Kirkpatrick said Wednesday afternoon. "I can't say for certain if it will be open to traffic today, but I do know that the engineers are now in the process of trying to get it open. There are some technical tests and adjustments that need to be done to first make sure that the bascule span (drawbridge section) is operating correctly."
Those things, she said, include working out timing issues with the safety gates and other dress rehearsal-type precursors to the bridge taking on traffic again.
Police, she said, have to be notified to be ready to remove barriers and signage and streamline such an opening, she said.
Rumson Police Chief Scott Paterson, however, said he knew nothing about the bridge opening, pending or in-process, and wasn't surprised.
"We wouldn't know until we actually saw cars drive over it," Paterson said. "The county's communication with us is not at all what it should be. We always seem to be the last to know these things. And we usually find out when out on patrol, rather than being notified in advance."
Paterson added that he would let the community know as soon as the bridge is open.
The bridge, which closed roughly two weeks ago for security upgrades, gate replacements and Hurricane Sandy-wrought damage, was expected to be closed until Jan. 28, though Kirkpatrick said the county was shooting for Friday.
The long-planned weeks-long closing came after a months-long shut-down during which major repairs to the historic art deco-style drawbridge that spans the Navesink River between Rumson and Middletown were completed in May.
*This is a breaking news story. Updates will be added as soon as they become available. Check back for more.