UNION, NJ — A U.S. Route 22 overpass that spans Stuyvesant Avenue in Union is slated to be replaced around 2019, and local officials already are bracing for the impact it would have on traffic.
The state says it will demolish and replace the bridge, which was built in 1929. Union Deputy Mayor Joseph Florio said the project will be a “major headache for us because people are going to have to detour.”
A one-lane bridge adjacent to the westbound Route 22 lanes will be built across the street from Connecticut Farms School near Wewanna Avenue to divert traffic along the federal highway during the replacement, state Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Schapiro said.
The current bridge will be demolished and reconstructed one lane at a time, he said.
Westbound traffic will be moved to the temporary bridge and eastbound traffic will be shifted to the existing westbound lanes. Then the eastbound side will be demolished and reconstructed, Schapiro said.
Once the first phase is complete, eastbound traffic will return to its normal route, while the westbound lanes are rebuilt.
“Once the westbound side is complete, westbound traffic will be shifted from the temporary bridge back onto the newly constructed westbound side of the bridge and the temporary bridge will be removed,” Schapiro said. “The total construction time is expected to be two years.”
Chestnut Street, which leads to the Garden State Parkway, sits under the current overpass.
The temporary bridge will be built on part of Veterans Honor Roll and Memorial Park. A parking lot owned by the township and used for teachers sits adjacent to the park on the east side.
The Union Board of Education passed a resolution Nov. 21 to hire Parette Somjen Architects for $14,750 to conduct a traffic study evaluating the effects of a temporary bridge on the parking lot and surrounding area.
LocalSource observed permit parking on surrounding blocks by the school.
“There are other concerns regarding long-term solutions for improving pick-up/drop-off and a long-term solutions for parking if the school does not get the township parking lot back for teacher parking,” a letter from the architect to school officials said.
The bridge was last inspected in July and was rated as “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete,” Schapiro said, adding that the designation doesn’t mean the bridge is “unsafe.”
“If the inspectors ever come across a structure that we determine to be unsafe, NJDOT will close either a lane or the entire bridge to make emergency repairs and would not hesitate to take the bridge out of service,” Schapiro said.
“Structurally deficient” means that either the deck, superstructure or substructure is in need of repair or rehabilitation. Functionally obsolete bridges no longer meet the current minimum federal requirements, and include those that have narrow lanes or shoulders, poor approach alignment or inadequate underclearance.
Union Township Administrator Ronald Manzella told LocalSource the current bridge is “not wide enough for today’s standards.” For example, there is no space for a shoulder lane, he said.
Planning for the project began in 2012, Schapiro said. The park where the temporary bridge will be built is part of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acre program.
Any trees displaced to build the temporary bridge must be replaced somewhere else.
“If NJDOT needs land that is part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acre program,” Schapiro said, “NJDOT must identify NJDOT property that can be exchanged for use of the Green Acres parcel and must follow State House Commission Application Process.”
Property obtained to build the temporary bridge is known as “right-of-way acquisition.” Approval for that and the trees has taken a “considerable amount of time,” he added.
Federal funds will finance the project since U.S. Route 22 is a federal highway. The estimated cost for the project is approximately $27 million, but Schapiro said the exact cost will not be known until a bidder has been awarded the contract.