The project had been on the back burner for several years, but was fast-tracked after the Oct. 29 storm destroyed some stretches of the road and damaged other parts. The entire length of highway that is slated for rebuilding is currently open, but it is marked by potholes, cracks, ruts, and small sinkholes, some of which predate Sandy.
The worst damage occurred in Mantoloking, where giant chunks of the roadway were broken up and washed away by the pounding surf that cut the barrier island in two and plowed a channel from the ocean to Barnegat Bay.
The day after the storm, several feet of sand covered the pathway that had been Route 35, and starfish sat on what would have been the yellow dividing line.
State Transportation Commissioner James Simpson said the original plan was to do the work gradually over six years, but Christie insisted it be finished in two.
That will mean some traffic jams. Simpson said the Department of Transportation tries to avoid doing major road projects at the Shore during the summer months.
"We can't this time," he said.
The governor said reconstruction will be performed in small sections, with alternating traffic patterns within the work zones, and Simpson promised there would always be a minimum of one lane open in each direction.
The first of three contracts will be awarded for the northernmost 31/2 miles from the border between Point Pleasant Beach and Bay Head to the border between Mantoloking and Brick.
In 2014, work will shift to the divided-highway section, where Route 35 is two lanes in each direction through Brick, Toms River, Lavallette, Seaside Heights, and Seaside Park before becoming one lane in each direction again through Berkeley to the entrance to Island Beach State Park.
Work should begin by early summer and wrap up by summer 2015, using federal highway funds.
The project will involve rebuilding the road bed with a new stone base, installing a new drainage system connected to pumping stations along the highway, and resurfacing the roadway with asphalt pavement and stabilizing materials that will be a combined two feet thick. The present roadway and substructure is eight inches thick.