The state Department of Transportation says plans are “in the works” for repairs to a Mahwah overpass classified as “structurally deficient” in a recent report.
Transportation for America, a coalition working toward “transportation reform,” recently released a report examining the state of bridges across the United States. The Central Ave./Island Road overpass, which crosses over Route 17 in Mahwah, was listed by the group as having the third highest traffic volume of all structurally deficient bridges in the state. The report estimated the bridge, built in 1956, has an annual average daily traffic rate of 157,300 cars.
In the report “The Fix We’re In For: The State of Our Bridges,” the group published the federal distinction of every bridge in the nation. According to the report, the Federal Highway Administration measures the superstructure, substructure, and deck of bridges to determine their conditions. Bridges are considered “structurally deficient” if engineers have determined the deck or supporting structure of a bridge has defects, and requires “significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement,” the report says.
The Central Ave. overpass project is “in the final design phase,” NJDOT spokesman Tim Greeley said. “We are proposing a plan to reconstruct the bridge’s deck and repair its piers and superstructure,” he said.
Greeley said the project may begin as early as the fall of 2013 if approved. Where the funding for the project will come from is “yet to be determined,” he said. But, the municipality would not be liable for the state project. He said funding would likely come from the federal government.
Though acknowledging that the overpass is considered “structurally deficient,” Greeley said the distinction does not mean drivers should be nervous to travel on it. “It is by no means unsafe,” Greeley said. “If we deemed it unsafe, it would be closed immediately.” He said the distinction is just a way to categorize the structure as one that needs to be repaired, he said.
The other two Mahwah "structurally deficient" bridges identified by the Transportation for America study are maintained by the Bergen County Department of Public Works.
The Bear Swamp Road Bridge, crossing over the Ramapo River, made the list. Built in 1888, the report estimates 422 cars pass over it per day. According to County Engineering Director Joe Femia, rehabbing this bridge is “extremely complicated.”
Currently, he said a temporary bridge has been placed over the original. “The temporary one is working, and there is no immediate danger going over the bridge, but it is an important project we are working on,” he said.
Femia said the historical and environmental considerations associated with the Bear Swamp Bridge make coming up with a design plan complicated. “Right now the temporary situation is working, but we are trying to get it done as soon as we can,” he said.
According to Femia, the other “structurally deficient” bridge on the list, on Ramapo Valley Road crossing over Mahwah Creek, was completely replaced. “That was completed earlier this year,” he said.
The county is currently working on two major projects in the township, a rehabilitation of the bridge on Franklin Turnpike, and a complete replacement of a section of Forest Ave. that passes over Valentine Brook.
Out of 520 bridges in Bergen County, the Transportation for America report found that 60 were structurally deficient. The list was based on data collected in 2008 and 2009 inspections. The group said it released the report in an effort to urge lawmakers to prioritize bridge maintenance and repair.