As the county prepares to reconstruct the JFK Boulevard East arch over the Palisade Cliffs at the east end of 76th Street in North Bergen, motorists are being forced onto a six-month detour that started last week.
According to a press release, Hudson County “has determined due to advanced age and erosion that the current concrete arch and retaining wall structure needs to be replaced.”
County Spokesperson Jim Kennelly says the work is long overdue on the structure, which was constructed prior to 1915. It previously consisted of reinforced concrete arch sections and a concrete retaining wall beneath the roadway. The replacement will be precast arch sections with cast-in-place concrete footings founded on rock.
The project will cost $2.3 million and is funded through the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
“When the money was available from the state, it was important for us to move ahead and address this issue as a matter of public safety,” said Kennelly.
Although Boulevard East is a county road, the township is cooperating with traffic coordination along with the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department.
“The township will do whatever it can to support the county and minimize any disruptions to residents in the area while this work is being done,” said Township Spokesperson Phil Swibinski.
“The long term benefits will outweigh the short-term aggravation.” – County Spokesperson Jim Kennelly
“The long term benefits will outweigh the short-term aggravation,” said Kennelly.
Boulevard East from 74th Street to 78th Street will be closed to traffic in both directions. A limited exception will be made for local traffic – passenger cars only – to proceed east on either 75th or 76th streets and make a right turn only, allowing drivers to proceed south on Boulevard East where one lane will be accessible to cars.
NJ Transit will reroute northbound Boulevard East buses at 74 th Street and southbound buses at 79th Street.
Six NJ Transit bus stops along Boulevard East between 73rd and 79th streets will be temporarily relocated. The temporary bus stops northbound are on 75th and 77th streets at Park Avenue. The southbound bus stops are located on 77th, 75th, and 72nd streets at Park Avenue.
To accommodate the wide bus turns 10 parking spaces will be temporarily lost and marked off by plastic bollards. At the east corners of 71st, 74th, and 79th streets and Park Avenue two parking spaces will be lost for each street. At the west corner of Boulevard East on 74th and 78th streets two parking spaces will be lost for each street.
“Our best advice for commuters is to think about a different route if at all possible,” said Kennelly.
The release states that vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be reopened within four months of the project.
“The hope is that we might be able to re-route traffic as soon as four months into the project to relieve some of the detours and dislocations,” said Kennelly.
Two weeks’ notice
According to a township flier about the project, the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department posted signs on Boulevard East two weeks before it began. The township has also posted information on www.northbergen.org, and with NB Connect, which alerts residents of important news.
However, resident Bill McClelland does not believe that residents were notified in a timely manner.
“They should have done a much better job of informing the public,” said McClelland. “The traffic congestion, pollution, noise and other problems this will cause for residents in this area will be a nightmare.”
Township Spokesperson Phil Swibinski said, “The township has been proactive in informing Boulevard East residents about the construction and road closure by distributing fliers and posting information on northbergen.org to try to limit disruption to their daily routine. This is clearly a necessary project to ensure the structural integrity of the road and hopefully it will proceed quickly and without delay.”
McClelland does believe the project is needed. “I understand that, clearly, they have to do these repairs,” he said.
A public hearing was held Monday, Feb. 11 at Robert Fulton School, where township officials and Hudson County representatives, along with the contractor, were present to answer questions. Kennelly said the hearing was not well attended.
McClelland claims that the only notification he saw of the hearing were fliers found on Boulevard East lamp posts.
Kennelly is urging residents with concerns about the contractors that are affiliated with the project to contact the Hudson County Division of Engineering at (201) 369-4340.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org