Building a New Smith Point Bridge Begins in 2024

One of the two bridges connecting Fire Island to the mainland is getting an upgrade. The Smith Point Bridge is slated to be replaced, with construction to begin in 2024. Expected to have a 75- to 100-year lifespan, county officials shared that the new bridge is anticipated to open in 2027. According to the civil engineering publication Roads & Bridges, the current structure will remain open and accessible to the public while the new one is being built.

Found on the eastern end of Fire Island, the bridge extends from the Smith Point peninsula to Smith Point County Park over the Narrows between Bellport Bay to its west and Moriches Bay to its east.

Current bridge (photo via the Suffolk County Department of Public Works)

The present bridge that most Fire Islanders are familiar with broke ground in summer 1955 and opened for public use on July 4, 1959. But before the current structure existed, a wooden footbridge, known as Tangier Bridge, could be found spanning across the waters.

The Tangier Bridge was the dream of Fredrick J. Quimby, who purchased the land surrounding the Smith Point Bridge around the year 1910 from the descendants of the Tangier Smith family. His plan was to develop the land he deemed Tangier Manor into “The World’s Greatest Development,” according to a historical article penned by this publication to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Smith Point Bridge.

However, the dream of the Tangier Manor project fell into financial distress due to lack of support and filing of several lawsuits against Quimby.

After Quimby recouped, Michael Gillespie, a recent Irish immigrant who was originally hired by Quimby to design the bridge, built a temporary wooden footbridge in 1916, which was subsequently destroyed a year later in an ice jam.

Fifty years later, Walter T. Shirley, a real estate developer, brought the current structure to life and the 1,200-foot-long drawbridge that now stands opened to the public after four years of construction.

Proposed bridge (photo via SCDPW)

Discussions of the replacement bridge have been in the works since June 2016, but according to the Suffolk County Department of Public Works (SCDPW), “some elements of the project have changed,” and a public information meeting was held by the SCDPW on May 12 to inform the public of the updates.

“This is because the design has been advanced, and also reflects public feedback received,” a statement from SCDPW read.

Funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration, the Suffolk County Legislature approved the funding for the $73 million project on June 11, 2019. The plans include replacing the current bridge with a new structure approximately 150 feet west of the current bridge, the addition of a protected shared use path and a 300-foot-long handicapped-accessible fishing pier underneath the bridge, according to the SCDPW.

Additionally, SCDPW stated that parkland and wetland restoration will be associated with both the removal of the old bridge and construction of the new one.