With finger-pointing over who is responsible for the delay and the threat of potential legal action, the construction of a pedestrian bridge near the busy four-way intersection at Kennedy Boulevard and 32nd Street has resumed. But county officials say the project will not be completed by August as originally predicted.
The Hudson County Board of Freeholders agreed at its July 10 caucus meeting to extend the construction deadline.
“The contractors are saying the delay was become the permit process in Union City took so long. We don’t necessary agree.” – Harold Demellier
Union City Mayor Brian Stack, when a freeholder, had pushed to have the project included in a proposal for construction of a similar bridge near St. Peter’s College in Jersey City back in 2000. He was instrumental in Hudson County receiving a grant of approximately $230,000 to conduct a feasibility study of whether the pedestrian crossing footbridge can be constructed at the site.
While the Jersey City bridge was constructed, it wasn’t until 2010 that the contract for the construction of the bridge in North Hudson was awarded. A $4.7 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration was authorized in November 2010, and Flanagan’s Contracting Group of Hillsborough, N.J. won the bid for the project.
The county originally applied for a federal construction grant in around 2003 but the area faced some significant issues such as building of historical merit in the area where the columns were proposed. Construction prep work began in May 2011, with actual work started the following August. The columns were constructed first and the overpass installed in May when work halted due to the need for additional elements to be added, requiring the walkway to be lifted, according to a county official.
County officials dispute claims by three of the subcontractors that Union City was to blame for not reviewing and approving plans in a timely matter.
“The contractors are saying the delay was become the permit process in Union City took so long. We don’t necessary agree. The delay is because we had to work out some structural problems,” said county Director of Roads Harold Demellier. “But this delay is not the county’s fault.”
Assistant County Engineer Joseph Glembocki said the project has resumed after a brief halt due to necessary changes in the plan that involve raising the walkway to install additional structural elements not first envisioned in the plans.
The columns for supporting the bridge – one on the North Bergen side by the Fritz Reuter retirement community center, and one on the Union City side near the Kennedy Center mall and the International House of Pancakes – were constructed earlier this year, and will support a covered pedestrian bridge. Both are designed to fit in with the historic look of the area and the walkway will have windows that will allow pedestrians to look out as they cross and provide natural light inside.
Glembocki said work has resumed on masonry around the towers.
“The delay comes because the truss has to be raised in order to be can drop in bearings that the state requires,” he said.
Washington Park gears up for grant
The Washington Park Association – which was organized by residents from the Jersey City and Union City sides of the county park – are gearing up to receive a $186,000 state Green Acres grant that will be used to make improvements to two county parks.
According to County Administrator Abe Antun, the grant will be matched with county Open Space Trust Fund grant money that will allow for improvements to both Washington Park on the Jersey City/Union City border and Lincoln Park in Jersey City.
“But this Green Acres Grant was applied for by the Washington Park Association with the support of the county,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.