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J.H. Reid Keeps Newark Route 21 on Track

Wed June 16, 2004 - Northeast Edition
James Van Horn

“We’ve actually got five bosses on this job,” Steve Gravelin, project engineer of J.H. Reid, general contractor, of South Plainfield, NJ, said about the company’s $42-million contract with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to reconstruct NJ Route 21, also called McCarter Highway, in downtown Newark.

Besides NJDOT, Reid “works” (under overall supervision of NJDOT) for the following:

• NJ Transit. The reason for the highway relocation is the separate construction of a light rail in downtown Newark.

• Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), the local utility. Reid’s job involves massive relocation and reconstruction of gas and electric lines and interchanges.

• The city of Newark. Not only is the job located there, the city has some of its own specific requirements.

• The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC), and more specifically its engineers, Malcolm Pirnie, White Plains, NY. In the middle of the job is the outflow to the Passaic River of the city of Newark’s old combined storm and sanitary sewer system. So Reid is building a screening plant to handle the combined flow from this system.

On top of that, as befits a job in Northern New Jersey, there’s a connection to “The Sopranos” television series.

Reid’s contract, extending from Raymond Boulevard to Interstate 280, is the middle of three let by NJDOT on the Newark Route 21 project. On the south side of Reid’s job, Union Paving and Construction Co. Inc., Union, NJ, is widening Route 21/McCarter Highway from Green Street to Raymond Boulevard, next to Penn Station. Work on Union’s job is fairly well along. To the north of Reid’s job, J. Fletcher Creamer and Son, Hackensack, NJ, is just starting work widening Route 21 from I-280 to Passaic Street, under a $31-million award.

According to the NJDOT, the purpose of the three projects is to improve traffic flow along Route 21 and its intersections with city streets. Crosswalks will be provided at all signalized intersections and sidewalks will be built on both sides of Route 21 to improve pedestrian safety. When the Route 21 job is complete, NJDOT will construct three through lanes for traffic in both the northbound and southbound directions and auxiliary turning lanes at most signalized intersections with city streets.

Aesthetic enhancements, such as decorative crosswalks and sidewalks, granite curb, decorative traffic signals and roadway lighting, stamped concrete gutters and trees, are a part of this project.

Next to Reid’s job is the $200-million Newark City Subway extension to Newark’s Broad Street Station. This 1-mi., five-station light rail extension will connect Newark Penn Station with Broad Street Station and the Morris & Essex Lines. The extension will offer NJ Transit users an eight-minute ride between the two stations, with stops along the way serving the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Newark Museum, the Newark Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, and the Broad Street commercial district. The extension will be mainly at street level, with part of the route alongside the new alignment of McCarter Highway.

Currently, E. E. Cruz and Co. Inc., Holmdel, NJ, one of three contractors on the NJ Transit side of the projects, is building a cut-and-cover tunnel for the extension.

The wastewater treatment project is for the city of Newark and the PVSC, which processes the city’s wastewater, as well as that of a number of other municipalities, at a plant on the east end of Newark, on the Passaic River. Many of the sewers in Newark, which were built 100 years ago, are combined sanitary and storm. During dry weather all wastewater goes to the treatment plant. But during a rainstorm the flow quickly exceeds the plant’s capacity and the excess goes directly to the Passaic River. To handle this overflow, Reid built a screening facility, with screens, control valves and gates, underground structures and pipelines, for the PVSC and Malcolm Pirnie. Some of the work also involved relining existing sewer lines.

Total value of the highway, rail and associated work is $360 million. Construction is expected to go on until 2006.

Reid was awarded the Route 21 contract in July 2002, started in October of that year and is scheduled to finish in December 2004. Right now, according to Gravelin, they are on schedule and expect to meet the date.

Reid’s job site is surrounded by an eclectic mix of old industrial buildings, transportation structures, new office towers, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Riverfront Stadium. It’s a vista typical of older urban areas of the Northeast, but with a singular New Jersey touch. Anchoring one corner of the highway site is a concrete silo emblazoned with “Valley Landscape Inc.,” recognizable to regular viewers of the television series “The Sopranos” as one of the opening scenes of that show. On another corner is a handsome red brick office building with no outside identification, which turns out to be, in beautiful ironic counterpoint, the Thomas J. Rodino Building, location of the New Jersey office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The “Sopranos” connection, Gravelin said, is how he identifies the project to people.

According to Gravelin, excavation is not a major factor; only approximately 52,000 cu. yds. (40,000 cu m) total is involved. “Because some of the material was contaminated and had to be moved off site, this wound up being a net borrow job by about 6,500 cubic yards.”

However, Reid did remove 30,000 cu. yds. (23,000 cu m) of old concrete, using loaders, excavators and Caterpillar D400 articulated off-highway trucks rated 40 ton (36.3 t) capacity. Reid then put down approximately 65,000 cu. yds. (50,000 cu m) of new subbase. Gravelin noted it reprocessed, as much as possible, the old concrete into new aggregate. “We had to do something with it. Why not use it in the new mix? It worked out real well for us.”

On top of the subbase, the company is using two Blaw-Knox PF-510 paving machines to lay down the Superpave hotmix asphalt courses: 21,000-tons (18,900 t) base, 6,700-tons (6,000 t) intermediate and 10,000-tons (9,000 t) top or overlay. Base and intermediate are 75 percent complete, while the top course will be done spring and summer of 2004. A Hy-pac vibratory roller compacts the hotmix courses.

As the paving is completed Reid will install all-granite-block curbing.

Naturally, an integral part of the job is keeping Route 21, one of the area’s busier highways, open during construction. (Traffic in Northern New Jersey is of legendary volume even when moving normally, so avoiding disruptions for any reason is a prime concern of NJDOT.) During peak travel periods, Reid has to keep two through lanes in each direction operating throughout the project and to alert NJDOT Traffic Operations to changing traffic patterns. (Traffic Operations will alert the police and traffic reporting services and post information on variable message signs.) Usually traffic follows temporary roadways, which are switched back and forth as Reid lays down subbase and the asphalt base and overlay paving courses.

Reid can reduce traffic to one through lane in each direction during the night and during weekends. On the few occasions when traffic must be detoured off Route 21, for short periods and during weekends, both the city of Newark police and NJDOT people bring their forces to bear.

Because so much of the first stages of the job involved excavation, mostly for trenches, Reid’s Komatsu excavators were the workhorses of the equipment spread. Gravelin in particular singled out the Komatsu PC228, with its tight tail-swing radius, as being particularly useful in the narrow confines dictated by much of the job. The PC228 is equipped with a 36-in., 1-cu.-yd. (91.4 cm, .76 cu m) capacity bucket and has a tail swing of only 5.5 ft. (1.65 m), so the rear swing stays entirely within the external width of the unit. The operator doesn’t need to constantly check where the back end of the excavator is.

Larger Komatsu PC650 and PC1000 handled deep excavation and backfilling while smaller units did shallower excavation and were also equipped with HoRam hammers for demolition.

For the screening plant, Reid laid well more than 1,950 ft. (600 m) of various diameter large prestressed concrete pipe, including 525 ft. (160 m) of 84-in. (2.1 m) diameter sections. In addition the job required water service and drainage pipe, all high-density polyethylene, up to 48-in. (121.9 cm) diameter. The job even included sewer relining work, subbed to Spinello Inc., of Morristown, NJ. One of the highlights of this part of the job, Gravelin said, was installing 11 precast concrete flow chambers, weighing up to 65 tons (58.5 t) and as much as 14 ft. (4.3 m) wide. These were trucked to the job site from Garden State Precast Inc., Farmingdale, NJ, and installed by Reid’s cranes, principally Manitowoc 777 and Link-Belt LB518 crawler cranes. Supplementing them were three vintage Bucyrus-Erie 30B crawler units, which because of their small size, low clearance and small track width, can work in tight places. Reid also rented two JLG telescopic boom lifts, which, with their 120 ft. (36.6 m) height and 75 ft. (22.9 m) outreach, are among the tallest aerial work platforms available.

Reid used Caterpillar crawler dozers and wheel loaders for stockpiling, loading, some backfilling, and, particularly the wheel loaders, for general utility work.

To drive piles for the screening facilities, foundations and retaining walls Reid called in both ICE vibratory and impact units. The job also specified a number of drilled shaft foundations, which Reid installed using Bauer BS 40 and BG 12H drills.

One of the highlights was replacing the NJ Transit railroad bridge over McCarter Highway, next to the Broad Street Station and the I-280 overpass, while keeping both rail and auto traffic running as smoothly as possible.

Initially, to build the new abutments for the new bridge, Reid used a low-clearance Hydraulic Power Systems Inc. (HPSI), North Kansas City, MO, impact hammer, with a 2-ft. (.6 m) stroke, to drive the piles. Then, Reid built the bridge on one side of existing Route 21.

Next, in the space of one weekend, crews dropped the existing bridge and jacked the new one into place so it was ready for Monday morning commuters. To do this they used a 600-ton (450 t) capacity jacking system from WB Equipment and Hillman rollers.

For the electric and gas relocation work, Reid brought in Kemsco Construction and Equipment Co., Newark, one of the contractors approved for this kind of job by PSE&G.

Despite the complexities of the job, it’s gone well for Reid, Gravelin said.