Suffolk County officials have imposed a 16-ton weight limit on vehicles using the aging bridge that leads to oceanfront Smith Point County Park, requiring the heaviest trucks to stop at a checkpoint to limit the number that use the span at once.
“There’s no danger. We just want to make sure the bridge maintains its functionality,” said Gil Anderson, Suffolk public works commissioner.
Anderson said the new limits will not affect passenger cars, which average about 1.5 tons. New weight limit signs were posted after an assessment showed that too many heavy vehicles at once would accelerate the 1,218-foot bridge’s deterioration.
Suffolk last year announced plans for a far taller $60 million span that would eliminate the need for the current drawbridge, which began operating in 1959. Construction is expected to begin in 2021 and take two years.
Philip Berdolt, county parks commissioner, said he hopes to open the checkpoint on the north side of the bridge by Friday. Officials say they expect no major delays, but will ask drivers of larger vehicles to stop and provide registration information on weight so they can time heavy vehicle movement over the bridge.
“We just don’t want to have two or three eighteen-wheelers going over the bridge at the same time,” Berdolt said. He said only a handful of the largest models of campers might be asked to stop.
Anderson said the county’s bridge consultant did an updated analysis of the bridge at the request of the state about six weeks ago.
County officials say they will also move forward with repairs to the drawbridge portion of the span, which will begin after the summer season ends and be finished by next summer.
The bridge, on the south end of William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, leads to Suffolk’s five-mile oceanfront park on the eastern end of Fire Island National Seashore. The park draws more than 300,000 swimmers, fishermen and beach campers annually. It also is the memorial site for those who died in the crash of TWA flight 800 in 1996.