Contico Corp. is a modern-day David taking on the Goliath of a construction project in Middlesex County, NJ. Instead of a slingshot to overcome the giant job sites along Route 18 in New Brunswick, Contico is using a “Jack and Bore” machine and a Bauer drill rig in addition to a large fleet of heavy equipment to meet the challenges of its largest project.
This multi-stage, $200-million project begins just north of Route 1 and extends north to the NJTransit/Amtrak Northeast Corridor rail bridge. The project involves Sections 2F, 7E and 11H, from the vicinity of U.S. Route 1 to NJ Route 27, and includes widening, grading, paving and structures, according to Charles Fresolone, the Route 18 project manager of Contico Corp.
Contico’s Scope of Work
Contico’s scope of the work, which began in 2005, includes implementing traffic control for staged construction activities to control daily traffic and its flow; the demolition and new construction of the George Street, New Street and Albany Street bridges; construction of a new bridge at the intersection of Commercial Avenue and Route 18; construction of a new pedestrian bridge at Carpenter Road; the installation of traffic signals at most intersections; construction of a multi-use path along the outer roadways on Route 18; new comfort station and improvements to the Raritan River Waterfront and Boyd Park.
Route 18 Overview
Route 18 is an urban, principal arterial route that serves the regional and local transportation needs of more than 85,000 vehicles each day. It is one of the primary thoroughfares that provide access to downtown New Brunswick, Rutgers University, hospitals, businesses, the performing arts centers and residential neighborhoods.
In addition, it serves as an entrance to the Raritan River waterfront and Boyd Park and a link to NJTransit’s Northeast Corridor that runs between New York City, Trenton and other points in New Jersey.
The parameters of the Route 18 project include the George Street Bridge, built in the 1950s; the New Street Interchange, built in the early 1960s; and the Route 27 Interchange, built in the 1970s. There also are worn footpaths throughout the project limits that indicate a demand for pedestrian facilities that do not currently exist within this section of the Route 18 corridor.
The purpose of this project is to enhance the safety and operations of this section or Route 18. Plans call for reconstruction to improve corridor traffic operations by eliminating substandard roadway geometric features, managing areas to and from New Brunswick and enhancing access and mobility for pedestrians, bicyclists and other users, according to a spokesman of the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the project’s Trenton, NJ-based owner.
Reconstruction improvements will include the construction of new outer roadways to separate local traffic from expressway traffic. Northbound and southbound outer roadways will allow access to and from the city by meeting new bridges at George Street, Commercial Avenue, New Street and Albany Street.
These outer roadways also will have wide multi-use paths along their entire lengths and at each bridge crossing to connect the city, its institutions, and residential and recreational areas.
Safer pedestrian crossings will be provided with traffic signals at Paulus Boulevard, George Street and pedestrian bridges at Carpenter Road and Richmond Street. The connection to the pedestrian bridge at New Street also will be improved.
Plans also call for a ramped promenade to be built from the new bridge at Commercial Avenue to provide a scenic view of the Raritan River and an entranceway for pedestrians into Boyd Park.
Improvements also will include a new amphitheater adjacent to the park pavilion and take in the area closest to the outer roadway.
Project plans, the NJDOT spokesman said, also called for Boyd Park to be extended into the former city docks area and for construction of a new boat ramp and picnic pavilion, along with ample parking.
New sidewalks and lighting will be provided throughout areas used by pedestrians and bicyclists; noise walls will be constructed to buffer several residential locations. Aesthetics in the reconstruction area will be enhanced by burying utilities underground and by extensive landscaping and through the use of architectural and urban design treatments.
Contractor Faces Its Giant
On the Route 18 project, Contico was aware of some of the obstacles it would face on a job of this magnitude.
“There are several challenges to a job of this size. The main challenge for us has been traffic staging, specifically lane closures as well as existing utilities,” said Fresolone.
“In order to address these challenges, while performing our utility work, we purchased a ’Jack and Bore’ machine [an auger boring method of installing conduit]. The Jack and Bore machine allows us to install utility crossings — both day and night shifts — directly under Route 18 without closing the roadway. If we were to install these roadway crossings by open cutting the excavation, we would have had to do it at night while implementing lane closures along Route 18,” Fresolone explained.
“Existing utilities have been major obstacles in the first year of work. It has caused us to change the staging of the job,” he explained.
Another project challenge was that “our bid day subcontractor, who was going to drill 735 shafts on the project, backed out in mid-2005. Our solution was to purchase a Bauer drill rig and perform the work ourselves. After going through the learning curve, we have been successful in performing this work,” Fresolone said.
To deal with project challenges, the project team holds weekly progress meetings. Participants include Contico Corp., NJDOT, Gannet Fleming Inc., the project’s engineer; and FPI Inc., the project’s community relations and compliance consultant.
Contico Makes Big Strides to Meet Incentive Deadlines
Contico Corp.’s contract contains three incentive and disincentive clauses, which deal with the closing and opening of the bridges and arterial roadways at New Street, Commercial Avenue and George Street, said Fresolone.
“We are currently working at New Street and expect to receive the full incentive payment on this structure. Commercial Avenue will follow in the fall of 2006 and then George Street in 2007. We are scheduling our work to earn all incentive payments and we are currently on schedule,” he said, declining to detail the specifics of the contract’s three incentive/disincentive clauses.
“The weather can have a dramatic effect on timelines on these types of projects,” Fresolone said. However, “The weather has been very good since we started work in July 2005. The 2005-2006 winter was very mild with the exception of a major snowstorm in mid-February 2006. We worked primarily on the drilled shafts, storm sewer, sanitary sewer and water main work during the winter months.
“We also have been working nights and some Saturdays on the project. Some night work is required by the contract due to lane closure restrictions and some nights we worked by choice in order to expedite our schedule,” Fresolone said.
“In spite of the challenges, we will finish the project well ahead of the May 2009 contract completion date,” concluded Fresolone. CEG
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