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N.J. Route ’Free for All’ Improves for $149M

Thu December 09, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

By Mary Reed

CEG Correspondent

Several years ago writer Ian Frazier walked Route 3 from Montclair, N.J., to New York City, and in a New Yorker magazine essay about his journey suggested that motorists coped with congestion on the highway by what he termed the traditional solution: a free-for-all as the occasion warranted.

However, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) begs to differ, and six years after Frazier walked Route 3, it has continued to improve travel conditions along it.

Work is ongoing on the department’s latest improvement project on Route 3, this time connected with the Passaic River bridge.

“The project involved close cooperation with local officials from Clifton, Rutherford and Lyndhurst who have provided resolutions of support for this project, which will improve the access to and from Route 3 from their communities as well as providing noise walls to reduce the highway noise for the residents of those communities,” said NJDOT Project Manager Chris Manz.

The federally funded $149 million contract for the job was awarded on June 24, 2010, to J. Fletcher Creamer & Son Inc., in a joint venture with Joseph M. Sanzari Inc., both based in Hackensack, N.J.

Work began on the project on Aug. 17, 2010.

The joint venture will construct a fixed span structure to replace the current movable bridge, which was built in 1949 and provides a major artery into New York City. Now structurally deficient, the bridge has required frequent repairs, most recently on the steel grating deck between August 2007 and February 2008.

Degradation of the span was caused in part because the structure’s design was based upon traffic flow in the 1940s and thus called for only two lanes in each direction. As traffic increased shoulder lanes were removed so that an extra lane could be added and ramp access provided.

These provisions are now inadequate, given the Route 3 river crossing is located in the most heavily congested section of freeway in New Jersey. Traveled by an average of 142,000 vehicles each day, drivers use it to access Routes 17, 46 and 21 as well as the Garden State Parkway and the Lincoln Tunnel.

The bridge is reported to have been the scene of numerous accidents precipitated by its substandard shoulders and acceleration and deceleration lanes.

“We moved forward with the field work in order to try to lessen NJDOT’s projected duration of 38 months,” a spokesperson of J. Fletcher Creamer said. “We have completed Stage 1A road work, which entailed removal of the existing center median barrier separating Route 3 eastbound and westbound, in order to shift traffic to the north or south and allow us to create the room necessary to construct each widened portion of the road.

“We have moved traffic to the north in Stage 1B to allow us to build everything behind the south curb line of Route 3 eastbound, and are now starting to construct the sound walls and bridge widening for structures B1-B6 on the southern side of Route 3 eastbound,” the spokesperson continued.

“We are also constructing a temporary lighting system on the northern side that will illuminate the eastbound roadway once we remove eastbound lighting during the construction phase,” he added. “This oversimplifies the amount of work required to shift traffic. For example, we had to demolish the existing median/concrete deck on the structure over River Road and design and construct a temporary deck surface that can accept traffic in the interim.”

The new wider bridge is expected to have a 100-year life. Designed to match the architectural details and surface texture of the bridge it will replace, the span will provide a 30-ft. (9 m) vertical clearance over the Passaic River and feature three 12-ft. (3.6 m) traffic lanes in each direction and a median barrier, as well as two 12-ft. auxiliary lanes for each direction.

New acceleration and deceleration lanes and re-configured exit ramps will be constructed on the approaches and highway shoulders will be upgraded within the limits of the project.

Creamer-Sanzari is in the initial part of the four stage Passaic River crossing project.

“The project involves two project managers, three project engineers and four superintendents, plus we’re placing a large reliance on our main office executives, the service center, payroll, purchasing, and so on,” Creamer’s spokesperson noted. “Obviously as the job progresses we will adjust accordingly. As for tradespeople, we project over 100 employees at the peak.”

The fleet assembled by Creamer-Sanzari consists of equipment owned by the two companies, which is being shared for the joint venture.

Pooled equipment includes Caterpillar 928 and 950 and Komatsu WA450 loaders and Komatsu (PC78 up to PC600), Caterpillar M322 and Caterpillar long reach 322CL excavators. Kobelco 160 ton (145 t) and CK2500 crawler cranes are at work on the job, along with a Link-Belt 110 ton (100 t) crawler crane.

Conmaco 125E5 and 65E5 hammer pile drivers and a Junttan PM23 driving rig also are on site.

Bauer drills (BG18H through BG40) will drill caissons for the bridge as well as for noise walls and sign structures. Tandem and Volvo 30 to 35 ton (27 to 32 t) off-road dump trucks are working alongside the equipment.

Project design calls for 10 mechanical stabilized earth (MSE) walls, 10 soldier beam and lagging walls, seven noise barriers along Route 3 in Clifton, Rutherford and Lyndhurst, and 18 overhead or cantilever sign structures.

While Creamer-Sanzari will self-perform most of the work, it is subcontracting specialty work. Thus roadway lighting and the ITS system will be provided by TruVal Electric of Hackensack, N.J. Pyramid Steel of Foster, R.I., will furnish and place reinforcing steel for concrete structures, while the erection of structural steel over four bridge structures will be handled by the Archer Steel Erecting Company, based in Manalapan, N.J. Skanska USA Building Inc., of Parsippany, N.J., will drill and construct 8 ft. (2.4 m) diameter shafts/caissons for the bridge over the Passaic River.

Survey and layout construction work throughout the project is by Louis J. Weber & Associates of Sparta, N.J. The Statewide Striping Corporation, based in Parsippany, N.J., is providing temporary and permanent line striping for stage work and the completed roadway.

At this time the contracts for landscaping and for concrete flatwork, covering the construction of concrete curb, sidewalk and parapets, have not been assigned.

For budgetary reasons the original project design was deemed to be too expensive. NJDOT therefore made major changes to its plans, splitting the project into smaller jobs in order to carry them out over a longer time and thus encourage more competitive bidding. As a result of this “smart sizing” overall costs were reduced by approximately $60 million.

With a substantial completion date of Oct.15, 2013, and a final completion date of Dec. 14, 2013, associated projects within the project perimeters include upgrading and repairing five other bridges on Route 3.

Creamer-Sanzari is now in the process of widening the bridges in this part of the job.

A separate contract carried out by Anselmi & Decicco Inc., headquartered in Maplewood, N.J., replaced the bridge carrying Park Avenue over Route 3 before work began on the river bridge replacement. This part of the project cost approximately $10 million and was funded by New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund.

About the Companies

J. Fletcher Creamer & Son Inc., is a fifth generation company founded in 1923 in Fort Lee, N.J. Originally operating as a delivery and trucking business, the construction of the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York City provided the company with an opportunity to expand into hauling construction material, subsequently moving into excavation work needed for rising development in New Jersey triggered by the opening of the bridge.

After diversifying in various fields such as fuel delivery and pipeline work, demonstrating the company motto of “A Progressive Organization,” today it offers clients heavy construction and utility and site work, among other services.

Joseph M. Sanzari Inc. is a family-owned business, which over the past four decades has worked in New Jersey in utility, heavy highway and bridge projects. The company motto for its projects is “On Time and Within Budget.” CEG

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