OTS-NJ Repairs Fire Damage on Amtrak, NJ Transit Bridge

Fri August 14, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer Hetrick

A barge in the middle of the Hackensack River with a crane suspending the three conduits so they can be pulled through the water and into the bore hole at the bottom of the river.
A barge in the middle of the Hackensack River with a crane suspending the three conduits so they can be pulled through the water and into the bore hole at the bottom of the river.



A bridge fire on the Hackensack River in New Jersey four years ago stranded hundreds of commuters bound for New Jersey from New York. The Amtrak drawbridge, which carries both Amtrak and NJ Transit trains along the Northeast Corridor line, went up in flames at about 7:30 in the evening, apparently starting in wood pilings under the trestle and quickly spreading across a pier at one end. Cabling going out to the center pivot control point was destroyed and needed to be replaced as quickly as possible on what is both NJ Transit and Amtrak’s main connection between Newark and New York. Temporary measures were implemented and train service returned to the bridge with remarkable speed.

Today, that temporary cabling has deteriorated with time and with exposure to river currents. OTS-NJ LLC, Jackson, N.J., a utility construction company that specializes in horizontal directional drilling (HDD), was subcontracted to Carr & Duff Incorporated who was awarded the contract to replace the cabling with a more permanent solution. Jim O’Connor, president, OTS-NJ, has more than 38 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, beginning as a lineman in 1971. In 1980 he founded O’Connor Teleservices Inc., followed by the formation of OTS-NJ in 1998.

OTS-NJ’s work on the Amtrak contract, which consists of the structural drilling of conduits from Amtrak’s land base to the Northeast Corridor center fender system, located mid point in the Hackensack River, got underway on Jan. 27, 2009.

According to O’Connor, the first thing they had to do was deal with the unwelcome discovery that the site they were working on was contaminated. “There was a chemical facility nearby in the late 1950s-60s and the soil, although properly remediated, was contaminated. So we had to stop and decide how to get through the layer of contamination without bringing the soil to the surface or going through it in a way that would contaminate the river,” O’Connor explained.

To solve this issue, “We installed a 36-inch steel casing that was then placed in the ground at a 10-degree angle for 80 to 100 feet. The casing was then filled with a slurry mix we could drill through. The directional drill, a Ditch Witch JT8020, was set up so that it went through the casing and we were able to drill without disturbing the contaminated soil,” said O’Connor.

The JT8020 came from Ditch Witch Mid Atlantic, Millstone Township, N.J., and “worked flawlessly,” according to O’Connor. “The JT8020 was set up with a wire line guidance system that steered us right on the money to our target location mid-river. The JT8020 was very compatible with the wire line technique and the procedure moved along effortlessly. In addition to having a new JT8020 on the project we also had the full support and cooperation of the Ditch Witch Mid Atlantic staff and resources. When you are involved in a project of this magnitude, downtime really hurts; there was none on this job related to our JT8020. I can’t say enough about the dedication to customer service and satisfaction that Tom Reszkowski exemplifies every day. Outstanding.”

Tom Reszkowski, sales representative, Ditch Witch, is proud to have been part of OTS-NJ’s switch to Ditch Witch. “The unit that OTS used to complete the river shot was a new Ditch Witch JT8020 directional drill. It is the fourth drill rig they have purchased from Ditch Witch Mid-Atlantic in the last four years. Ditch Witch Mid Atlantic has offered them superior service and the Ditch Witch HDD units offer the advanced technology that he needs.” CEG