Officials say Rt. 1 bridge project lacks
BY JENNIFER AMATO
NORTH BRUNSWICK — Residents attending an
informal workshop regarding the replacement of the Route 1
bridge between Ryders Lane and Milltown Road were upset to
learn the design process is in its final phases.
Although an information session was held on
Dec. 7 at the municipal building to discuss the proposed
bridge reconstruction and adjacent road improvements around
DeVry University and SilverLine Windows, concerns were voiced
regarding pedestrian safety, roadway design and railroad track
The $28 million Federal Highway Administration
project, $1.6 million of which was acquired by U.S. Rep. Rush
Holt (D-12), focuses on replacing the functionally obsolete
bridge, improving sight distance and eliminating the road
curves beneath it. This will allow the connection of College
Farm Road to the access driveways of local property owners. A
pedestrian and bike lane along the six-foot-wide shoulder is
“We are looking at a bridge that is very old.
It is difficult to try to fix it. At other stages it was
looked into … but once our construction team, once they
declared it structurally obsolete, that means you have to
replace it,” DOT project manager Joshua Idowu said.
The bridge is over 75 years old and at its
original construction, bridges had only a 50-year life span.
Idowu said there is already concrete falling, so it would be
risky to try to fix the bridge instead of completely replacing
it. Also, the state would only mandate certain funds, so any
future repairs to a deteriorating bridge would not be
“It takes a long time to look at any
engineering project and takes a long time to get it into a
construction project. We are looking at something that is
deteriorating. If we sit back and relax and the bridge falls,
what do we do? We need to take action,” Idowu said.
However, the elimination of the railroad
tracks, which were owned by Conrail until they signed an
abandonment agreement last year, would make any future
transportation hubs obsolete. Acquiring tracks once they are
removed is hard to come by in the state.
“At this stage we are not going to modify the
bridge,” Idowu said. “We looked at the industries the railroad
was supplying and those industries as far as we know don’t
need the railroad.”
He said that in speaking with township
officials, no one expressed a desire to maintain the existing
rail line, and that once the bridge is constructed it will be
too low to allow for tracks to be replaced anyway.
However, an issue of Smart Growth was brought
forth by Councilman Ralph Andrews and Mark Hommer, the
chairman of the Environmental Commission. They believe that
new community plans need to take into consideration and
integrate concepts which combat sprawl. The designs should
promote compact, transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly
land-use patterns, they said.
They said that a light rail system with a
connection to New Brunswick or Franklin could be possible, and
safer pedestrian and bicycle paths are a necessity. Especially
with the neighboring DeVry and Rutgers University campuses,
Permacel site and Bristol-Myers Squibb, walking and jogging
trails would be appropriate for students as well as adults
going to school or work.
“Is this concept of Smart Growth complete
rhetoric? … In this township we try to think ahead. It’s very
frustrating to do this over many, many years. When is this
going to be implemented?” Hommer asked. “We are desperately
trying to move ahead in North Brunswick with this transit
village [on the Johnson & Johnson property farther down
Route 1] and with our master plan … but then you come in and
try to build something like this and it does not seem to be in
consistency with the state’s own initiatives.”
Idowu responded by saying that because of the
advanced stage of design, any comments or inquiries could be
directed to him in writing at the DOT.
Initial plans for this reconstruction project
began in the mid-1990s. The abandonment decision by Conrail
took several years because of their investigation of the
futility of the tracks. Within those years, DOT met with
public officials in North Brunswick to discuss their desires
for the project. However, Milltown and New Brunswick
representatives were not spoken to directly but instead were
invited to come to information sessions.
Right-of-way acquisition will begin this
winter and could take up to 12 months to complete. Afterward,
the job can be advertised and bids are expected by January
2008. Construction could begin in March of 2008 and be
completed by the end of 2009.
During the construction period, three lanes
will be maintained in both directions on Route 1: two highway
lanes and one detour lane. The bridge itself will be
reconstructed in two stages, maintaining two lanes in each
direction. Traffic will still flow under the bridge during
construction to provide access to both Route 1 north and
“Based on traffic patterns during the peak
hours there will be a little traffic buildup, but it will not
be much different than it is now. That’s why we will try to
maintain three lanes open,” Idowu said.
The only inconvenience should be that
construction zone speed limits are lower than normal highway
limits, thus causing some residual delays.
In regard to cultural concerns, the adjacent
New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station College Farm
Historic District, the National Musical String Factory and the
Raritan River Railroad Historic District will not be affected,
based on a Cultural Resources investigation.
“This project is a blessing to the township of
North Brunswick because when everything is done, it is going
to create a lot of improvements to the township,” Idowu said.
“We’re lucky to have the funding to execute this job.”
Idowu can be reached at the Division of
Project Management, New Jersey Department of Transportation,
P.O. Box 600, Trenton 08625-0600.