It was last summer when Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey. Atlantic County is still dealing with damaged roads and bridges and the repairs could cost big bucks in addition to taking months to complete.

Roughly a dozen bridges were damaged in Irene’s wrath as well as numerous roads. Atlantic County Engineer Joe D’Abundo says its been a real challenge for commuters.

“Some of these detours have been up to 15 miles, so we look at all those situations and that is how we prioritize what work gets done first.”

D’Abundo says its also created a major problem for emergency services vehicles. “When you take out a major connector road, it creates major havoc in getting emergency personnel where they have to go.”

He says the roads that affect police, fire, and EMS crews are high on the list. “Obviously we want to get all of those fixed as quickly as possible so there is no delay in the amount of time it takes an emergency worker to get to the scene of a fire or accident.”

Work is already underway at two bridges in Hamilton and Mullica Townships, but several other projects could take months or years to complete.

D’Abundo said the current focus is on the three major arteries that were severed by storm damage in the southern part of the county, the EH-21 in Egg Harbor Township, the HML-25 in Hamilton Township and the M-31 in Mullica Township.

But even with federal money to reimburse some of the tab, he says Atlantic County still be on the hook for up to 20% of the total cost of the infrastructure repairs. “That’s still a lot of unbudgeted money that we’re looking at.”