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July Start Eyed For Middle Valley Bridge Work

Engineering officials present project specifications to township.

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.

Edi Garcia May 18, 2012 at 04:02 PM
The Empire State Building took one year, more or less ... I don't remember exactly ... so what is taking six months to build this bridge? Possibly I could understand if the bridge wasn't being closed. But it is. So, six months? Really?
Trish Dochtermann May 20, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I would love to know the answer to that question myself, as I will be one of the homeowners directly affected by having to drive 10.8 miles each my way on a daily basis. Why does it have to be completely closed for the entire time? The US Army puts these bridges up in 48 hours. I agree, 6 months is absurd. I'm sure if the company installing the bridge had to drive over 20 miles a day out of their way to get home, it would get done much quicker.

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