The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) recently announced that hardship exceptions are being sought for work that will be part of the Route 23 major reconstruction project on the much-traveled bridge between West Milford and Kinnelon. The bridge is over Pequannock River and Hamburg Turnpike.
Hardship exceptions are being requested from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for work within the channel, work within 150 feet of the top of the bank along a regulated waterway with a 300-foot riparian zone, riparian impacts that exceed the allowable fill in the floodway, and changes in flood elevations.
The proposed project will replace the existing bridge that was constructed in 1934. The new replacement bridge will be 417 feet long between abutments and 84 feet wide, with a widening of approximately 22 feet occurring on the west side of the existing bridge.
During construction, traffic is proposed to travel on a diversionary road with a temporary bridge constructed on the west side of the existing bridge, while a portion of the final bridge, wide enough to carry four lanes of traffic, is constructed.
Before the construction starts next summer tree cutting to clear the way for the bridge construction will begin in February. As proposed, the new bridge will be flatter than the current structure.
When the project was being discussed in July 2014, the estimated cost was $56 million. Earlier, when the project was first proposed, that figure was $42 million. The West Milford Engineering Department in 2014 reported the current average daily traffic count was 36,000 vehicles.
Walter J. Lawrence, highway project manager for Jacobs Engineering at the time, said traffic there was too tight, causing an increase in accidents on the bridge. Plans are to build a three-lane temporary bridge to handle traffic on the busy commuter artery. There is to be a movable barrier to provide two northbound lanes for the evening commute and two southbound lanes for the morning commuters. The plan said all traffic would be moved to the new bridge as soon as it is two-thirds complete.
The earlier announced plan said after a new span is erected the temporary span will be removed to enable workers to widen the bridge and allow striping of realigned lanes and shoulders that will be 30 feet wide. In 2014, reports said the existing shoulders were sub standard and the bridge was obsolete. When plans were initially announced, officials said two full construction seasons were anticipated in to complete the project.
State officials said then there may be some overlap with the road paving in connection with the ongoing project to remove the dangerous S-turns on the highway north of the bridge. It has been noted by officials that dangerous banking of the road has led to numerous motor vehicle accidents through the years.
In 2014 state representatives expected the construction to be begin in 2017 with a completion date in 2019, but the project was obviously held up.
When speaking in 2014, Lawrence said the current bridge might stand for 30 more years, but the state did not want to chance it would not. He said the new bridge would take care of apparent design deficiencies.