A portion of Middle Valley Road at its eastern end beginning on or around July 11, and is expected to be reopened no later than Dec. 31 of this year, according to engineering officials from Morris County and the firm T. Y. Lin.
Those officials presented a project overview to the Wednesday night, and fielded questions from nine residents who live in the Middle Valley section of Washington Township that will be most closely affected by the project.
The scoping phase of the project, where conceptual design began, started in 2005 and lasted three years, according to the presentation. Final design was completed in 2011, and won the project bid in April this year.
No representatives from Konkus Corporation were at the meeting.
While the road itself belongs to Washington Township, the bridge is the property of Morris County, who is sponsoring the project. The cost of the entire replacement is $1.75 million, the officials said, which is federally funded.
The bridge’s specifications, at a glance, are:
- 12 feet in height
- 120 feet long
- Two 13-foot wide traffic lanes (minimum acceptable width)
- A four-foot wide sidewalk on the west side of the bridge
- Approaches will be widened between 60 and 70 feet
- Color will be foliage green
Timetable still not full proof
While Morris County officials expect the start date of the bridge work to be in early July, it’s an outside variable that could slow the project before it even begins.
Before any work can begin on the roadway or bridge, overhead utility lines need to be relocated by the area’s energy provider, Jersey Central Power & Light.
“Our biggest frustration is the utilities,” said Steve Hammond, Chief Engineer of Morris County. “We’ll keep on them, try to keep them to the schedule they committed to. But JCP&L is notorious for breaking its schedule.”
The bridge will remain open during the utility relocation, Hammond said.
Utility relocation is expected to begin on June 1, Hammond said, followed by a notice to proceed with the work on June 11. The road is then expected to be closed on July 9, with an estimated substantial completion date of Nov. 30, and an estimated final completion date of Dec. 31.
History in the making
The Middle Valley Road bridge being replaced was put in place in 1981, and was meant to be a temporary, single lane bridge. It was deemed structurally deficient and functionally obsolete in 2003.
Prior to the current bridge, the previous roadway had been in place since 1889. T. Y. Lin engineering and the Washington Township Historical Preservation Commission coordinated extensively so the “truss structure would evoke the feel of an old structure,” said a T.Y. Lin engineer.
Two stone abutments beneath the bridge will remain intact as well, and not be altered during the replacement of the bridge.
Lengthy safety concerns
Because of the location of the bridge, detours around the roadway will be lengthy–up to 10.8 miles, depending which direction a driver is traveling.
Heading east on Rt. 513, drivers will be alerted of a detour via signage before Sliker Road in Califon. Heading west on Rt. 513, drivers will be notified at the intersection of Schooley’s Mountain Road.
Those detours, in addition to Middle Valley Road’s notorious Woodpecker Point, a 135-degree angle, caused concern for residents in the area in case of emergency.
“Are emergency responders going to be able to reach us?” asked resident Chris Steffan to the township committee.
Committeeman Tracy Tobin explained that all three fire companies in town are aware of the situation, as is the and department of public works. The fire companies said they could get pumper trucks down the road if necessary, but not a ladder truck, according to Tobin.
“It’s very much an inconvenience,” said Mayor Ken Short. “But it’s something that has to be done.”
Normal hours of construction, Hammond said, will be Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If construction is done on Saturdays, it will not begin until after 8 a.m.