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Two Years Later, Towpath Access Bridge Still Out

... but the promised access is not delivered.

State officials say the bridge could be replaced by  2014.

The sign at DeMott Lane and Easton Avenue promises ...

The sign at DeMott Lane and Easton Avenue promises …

Two years after it was swept away by the remnants of Hurricane Irene, the D&R Canal Towpath access bridge off DeMott Lane in Somerset is getting some attention.

But it’s still going to be nearly another year before the bridge will once again allow access to the towpath.

The state Department of Environmental Protection expects to go out to bid for a replacement bridge by the end of the year, said department spokesman Bob Considine.

Considine said the state expects the replacement cost to be about $75,000.

“With a smooth and successful bidding process,” he said, the new bridge could be in place by the summer of 2014, “if not sooner.”

The bridge was swept off its pilings and forced upstream about 20 feet by Irene, which hit the Franklin area in late August 2011. The storm is ranked as the seventh-costliest hurricane in history.

The project will be funded by Corporate Business Tax funds allocated to the DEP’s Division of Parks & Forestry, he said.

“We will seek reimbursement from (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) as it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene,” Considine said.

The reason the replacement took so long was a matter of priorities, Considine said.

“Parks and Forestry had many projects of more importance to address after Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and the derecho in South Jersey,” Considine said. “There were safety issues that were of a much higher priority. Then Sandy happened, and that trumped everything else.”

He said the design was completed about a year ago.

The towpath, which stretches unbroken from New Brunswick to Mercer County, and then into Hunterdon County, is heavily used by cyclists, runners and walkers.

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