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Suffolk County holds public meeting for new Smith Point Bridge project in Shirley

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Plans are moving forward to build a new arch bridge to replace Smith Point Bridge in Shirley.

William Hillman, chief engineer of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, William Nyman, a principal associate of Hardesty & Hanover, the engineering firm designing the new bridge, and representatives from AKRF Inc, an environmental engineering company, met with community residents via Zoom Thursday evening to discuss the project. The public information meeting — the first for the project since 2016 — cultivated community feedback for consideration as plans progress.

“By replacing the old Smith Point Bridge, we are ensuring that we have continued access to the most beautiful and most visited park in Suffolk County,” Suffolk County Legislator Jim Mazzarella said in a prepared statement at the top of the meeting. “We are fortunate to have been allocated federal infrastructure monies that will fund 80% of the total cost of the project.”

Mazzarella added that the new bridge be an amenity for the community.

The replacement arch bridge will be built west of the current drawbridge bridge, which will remain open during construction. The existing bridge, built in 1959, stops automobile traffic to allow sea craft to traverse Narrows Bay. The new design includes an archway that would eliminate the need to open the bridge to passing boats.

Nyman explained that the Smith Point Bridge has suffered deterioration to its concrete approach span beams and deck joints, endured corrosion and features obsolete mechanical and electrical equipment.

“The existing bridge was open to traffic in 1959 and is over 60 years old,” Nyman said. “Numerous repairs and rehabilitations have been performed, but issues still exist. It is in fact the lowest rated bridge owned by Suffolk County.”

Community weighs in on pedestrian and bike access

Much of the plans for the bridge, including pedestrian and bike access, remain undetermined.

Following the 2016 public information session, as well as the county’s hike and bike master plan released in 2020, the Smith Point Bridge design incorporated a single 12-foot-wide shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists on one side of the bridge.

About two dozen residents who attended Thursday’s public information session asked questions and offered their opinions regarding the design. Most of them weighed in on whether the shared-use path should be constructed on the east or west side of the bridge. Some even proposed engineers revert to original plans that featured sidewalks on both sides of the bridge for pedestrians with bicyclists sharing the roadway.

These decisions, which remain unsettled, will inform the various designs presented for pedestrian paths on the south side of the bridge. The designs will grant safe pedestrian and bicycle access to Smith Point Beach and the eastern end of the Fire Island National Seashore.

A new fishing pier

The latest plans for the Smith Point Bridge feature a 300-foot-long fishing pier constructed underneath the bridge. Current plans call for the ADA-compliant pier to be on the north side of the bridge.

Some attendees are in favor of the new fishing pier, while others expressed concern it would worsen overflowing parking during beach season and generate unwanted noise. The plan’s presenters suggested designating parking at the park ranger station or the Smith Point Marina County Park.

Construction two years away

The presenters shared a current timetable for the project, still in its community feedback phase. By mid-2023, H&H hopes to complete its final designs, with the county seeking bids later that year. Construction is expected to begin mid-2024 and wrap sometime in 2027.

Top: Cross section rendering of the proposed Smith Point Bridge from Hardesty & Hanover’s presentation Thursday evening.