HILLSIDE, N.J. — The Bloy Street Bridge overpass across U.S. Route 22 will be replaced next year, officials announced at an Oct. 22 press conference; the necessary repair could slow traffic on the heavily traveled federal road.
The bridge replacement is just one 28 projects across New Jersey that comes with $100 million awarded to the state Department of Transportation by the Federal Highway Administration in September, and of several improvements along Route 22, including lane widening and sidewalk improvements.
A construction contract has not yet been awarded for the bridge project as the DOT is still seeking bids. While the project is expected to be completed in 2023, officials could not release such details as a timetable and plans to alter traffic patterns on Route 22.
“Some of the funds will be used for the Bloy Street Bridge replacement, as well as a variety of other projects including bridge preventative maintenance, pedestrian safety improvements, bikeway improvements, intersection improvements and capital projects that will ease congestion and improve safety,” an Oct. 22 release from the DOT said. “The bridge replacement is not the only project under way that is expected to improve the quality of life for drivers and pedestrians.
“This is one of 28 projects that are being funded, including 10 that are part of the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program, which provides federal funds for community-based ‘nontraditional’ projects designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects.”
The project is one of two by the DOT about a mile apart on Route 22, in addition to pending redevelopment on the eastbound side on the site of the Garden State Motor Lodge and Chuck E. Cheese.
The DOT has begun a project in mid-September at Sayre Road North and Route 22, installing acceleration and deceleration lanes at the intersection as well as an auxiliary lane stretching from Gary Road to the Vauxhall Road exit ramp. This project will also improve the Sayre Road exit and entrance. That $2.2. million federally funded project also will replace a sidewalk on Route 22 between Vauxhall Road and Sayre Road, realign the pedestrian stairway that connects Route 22 westbound and Vauxhall Road,install inlets to improve drainage, and repave the roadway. The project is expected to be completed next summer.
DOT spokesman Stephen Shapiro said in a phone interview on Oct. 22 that other than the Bloy Street Bridge replacement, the construction is mainly addressing safety issues. The widening of lanes and ramps on Route 22 is safer for truck traffic and some of the sidewalks are old and deteriorated, so this project will improve pedestrian safety, he said.
A major change will turning Yale Street, on the west side of Bloy Street, into a cul-du-sac, removing Yale Street fork and removing the access to Bloy Street.
Shapiro added that, since the project is still out for bid, the exact impact of the changes on vehicular traffic through the area is not completely understood. There will be a construction plan when the DOT awards a contract later this fall, he said.
Both the Bloy Street Bridge project and the one further west are part of the DOT’s Commitment to Communities initiative, a 2018 program to prioritize transportation projects throughout the state without requiring more resources from local towns.
During the press conference that announced the Bloy Street Bridge project at the Hillside Municipal Building, state Sen. Joe Cryan, a Democrat whose 20th Legislative District includes Hillside, applauded the DOT for putting the Hillside project on its list, noting the consistently heavy traffic through the area and citing the fatalities there in the past year.
“I have to tell you, as someone who has the fortune of being a senator these days, the responsiveness of the DOT these days is second to none,” Cryan said. “To move truck traffic here is an important part of our local economy. Making these changes enhances the quality of life all throughout.”
State Assemblyman Jamel Holley, who also represents District 20, praised the DOT at the event as well, emphasizing the importance of safety.
“I thank the DOT for their efforts. … This district alone will be receiving over a million dollars in funding from our state and federal governments, so that is an accomplishment in itself.”
Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese said she was grateful for the pedestrian improvements in an area prone to vehicular accidents, largely due to speeding motorists and obscured sightlines.
“This will make us safer,” Vertreese said. “It will make us more confident drivers … it will also give us more leeway between industrial Hillside and residential areas. If there’s one thing people complain about in Hillside, it’s the trucks trying to cross through and get to 22. So, this is a massive achievement for us.”