Doherty said Belmar's attorney told him a legal delay of several weeks could seriously threaten the town's desire to have the boardwalk done by May. Litigation "would have held the project hostage," which Belmar could not afford, Doherty added.
"This is so important for our town and for the Jersey Shore," Doherty said. "Belmar has had a boardwalk since 1875. It's part of our character."
Not having a boardwalk open before Memorial Day "was not an option for us," he said.
Doherty made his comments after a news conference to start work on the 1.3-mile boardwalk. Gov. Christie, who has promised to return for Memorial Day weekend to welcome tourists back to the Jersey Shore, praised Belmar for moving quickly to restore the centerpiece of its tourism-based economy. "This is one of the heartbeats of the state," he said. "This is one place where we come to work and play and rest. We're going to make sure this is restored."
Belmar's move comes as several other Jersey beach towns are moving toward rebuilding their boardwalks. Spring Lake, just to the south, will start its boardwalk project soon, followed closely by Seaside Heights, which expects to award a contract for the work this month.
The boardwalk project was expected to cost $6.6 million using the rain forest wood. Doherty said that the synthetic material will cost $700,000 less but that add-ons such as electrical and plumbing work for temporary bathrooms might keep the cost in the same range.
The mayor said new designs including the use of strong hurricane tie-down straps will help anchor the new boardwalk to its support moorings. Some pilings will be driven 25 feet deep into the sand. Tim Keating, executive director of Rainforest Relief, said his group had threatened to bring legal action against Belmar's plan to use ipe. He praised the town for switching to synthetic materials and called on its neighbor to the north to do likewise.