After a decade of designing and planning, Acting Governor Kim Guadagno and New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson announced today that the construction phase of a $350 million project will soon begin.

Acting Governor Kim Guadagno and Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson announce the construction of a new Route 72 bridge over Manahawkin Bay Causeway entering and exiting Long Beach Island. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

The Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Causeway has served as the only way on and off Long Beach Island for more than 50 years. With the new project, that would no longer be the case. In the end, twin bridges will stand 15 feet apart, providing the safety of a redundant route in the event one of the spans needs to be closed.

Once the new span is complete and open to traffic, the current bay bridge will be closed and rehabilitated.

"The sequence of construction activity that we have carefully planned will allow us to maintain the current two travel lanes in each direction during peak summer hours," Simpson said. "We will not impact traffic, which is the most important thing."

The first of four major construction contracts will be advertised for bids tomorrow, with construction starting this spring. Completion is scheduled for 2020.

The new Route 72 span will feature a modern interpretation of the current pearl lights. (Townsquare Media)

Simpson said the project will feature accommodations for bicyclists and provide better access to the water. Also, adhering to residents' wishes, the new span will include a modern interpretation of the pearl lights that currently light the roadway for vehicles.

"If Irene and Sandy have taught us anything, it is that we can't have just one way in and one way out," said Acting Governor Guadagno. “The Manahawkin Bay Causeway project exemplifies what we are aiming for when it comes to rebuilding in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy – moving quickly to restore what was lost and to do so in a manner that will be stronger, more lasting, and better serve our residents."

The current span sustained relatively minor damage during the superstorm. It remained open at all times.