When Superstorm Sandy hit the New Jersey shoreline on Oct. 29, 2012, it ravaged many communities with its hurricane-force winds, pounding rain and record storm surges along the coast. New Jersey’s state highway system along Route 35 from Point Pleasant Beach to Island Beach State Park in Ocean County was particularly devastated by the unprecedented conditions.
The storm surge washed entirely across the peninsula from ocean to bay in three locations, breaching three sections of the highway. In addition to destroying much of the highway, the storm undermined and moved concrete slabs and ruined much of the underground drainage system. Sinkholes formed where the roadway, sidewalk and storm drain inlets collapsed, further disrupting underground utility lines.
"It was pretty devastating," recalled Dan Lemmon, project engineer for Union Paving and Construction Co. Inc. "Several side streets collapsed, homes were swept away."
Sand buried streets and clogged the sanitary sewer system, particularly in the northern part of the island. Bridges were damaged and flooded.
Within days, emergency responders and New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) crews removed debris and sand from the roadway and erected temporary utility lines to keep the island functioning and allow access for contractors.
In June 2013, Union Paving bid on the job of rebuilding a four-mile segment of the roadway. It is one of three contracts to reconstruct a 12.5-mi. (20 km) stretch of Route 35 on the Barnegat Peninsula, a barrier island off the New Jersey coast. Union Paving will reconstruct the roadway from Milepost 0 in Berkeley to Milepost 4, at a cost of $80 million, out of a total budget for all three sections of $265 million.
It’s a project that’s been in the works for nearly 10 years, when NJDOT initiated the design for improvements along the corridor to address flooding and pavement degradation related to drainage infrastructure, site characteristics and tidal influence.
Sandy shifted the focus of the project to full roadway construction. Because of the severity of the damage and because Route 35 is a coastal emergency evacuation route, NJDOT accelerated the Route 35 Reconstruction Project, which had been scheduled in three separate contracts over most of the decade. Work has begun and is scheduled for completion in 2015.
The route’s importance also merited federal funds for the project from the U.S. Department of Transportation Emergency Relief Program that was created to aid the repair and reconstruction of highways that have suffered serious damage as a result of natural disasters. State funds also were used in order to achieve a high design standard so the road can withstand future storms.
Building for the Future
The project includes building a stronger, more resilient roadway, a new drainage system that will improve the storm water drainage characteristics of the highway, and Complete Streets features to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
From south to north, the project passes through Berkeley Township, Seaside Park Borough, Seaside Heights Borough, Toms River Township, Lavallette Borough, Brick Township, Mantoloking Borough and Bay Head Borough. The southern terminus is at the entrance to Island Beach State Park; the northern terminus is at the border of Point Pleasant Beach Borough. The entire project is located in Ocean County.
Improvements to be made on Route 35 include:
• full-depth pavement replacement for a 50-year design life
• corridor-wide drainage improvements
• water quality chambers at all drainage outfalls
• installation of check valves at all outfall pipes to prevent tidal or storm surge backflow into the drainage system.
An all-new underground stormwater drainage system will be installed, with an increased number of inlets to collect roadway runoff. The system is designed to handle drainage needs of Route 35, not local streets.
Water quality chambers will be installed on each outfall to improve the quality of water discharged into the Barnegat Bay. "We’ll drive piles at the outfalls and secure them with lumber so the pipes don’t float away," Lemmon said.
According to NJDOT, work will be performed along the highway and at nine locations close to the bay, where pump stations for the new drainage system will be built. Temporary trenches will be dug along local streets for pipes connecting the drainage system along Route 35 to the pump stations.
Union Paving will construct five of the nine new underground pump stations. "They’ll be approximately 25 by 30 feet," Lemmon said, "and 20 to 30 feet deep. They will have five 80 horsepower pumps to help keep the streets clean in future floods."
Each pump station will feature an electrical and control panel elevated above the ground to protect the equipment from floods. Pump locations:
• Berkeley — one pump station at Bayview and 22nd avenues
• Seaside Park — three pump stations at Bayview and 8th avenues, Bayview and Island avenues, and on L Street
• Toms River — one pump station on Eisenhower Avenue
• Mantoloking — two pump stations on Lyman Street and on Downer Avenue
• Bay Head — two pump stations on Goetze Street and on Mount Street
Contracts One, Two, Three
Advanced utility construction and work on drainage and pump systems along side streets for Contract 1 began in 2013 along the northernmost 3.5 mi. (5.6 km) of Route 35 from Point Pleasant Beach to Brick. The construction on this portion of the contract has already been completed.
Work on the other two contracts began in August. When Union Paving reconstructs the road, it will be replacing the 8-in.-thick (20 cm) concrete with 24-in.-thick (61 cm) material engineered for stability and strength. To accommodate visitors during the busy summer season, crews will implement several pedestrian improvements, such as enhanced crosswalks, curbing and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps where there is sufficient right of way. Highway shoulders will continue to accommodate vehicle parking and bicycles.
MV Construction of Colonia, N.J., is responsible for curbs and sidewalks. C J Hesse Inc. of Atlantic Highlands, N. J., will perform the asphalt work. Lemmon estimated that 100,000 linear ft. (30,480 m) of curbing will be needed. More than 200 tons (181 t) of hot mix will be used.
Because the paving box will be thicker, Lemmon said crews will excavate about 203,000 cu. yds. (155,205 cu m) of mostly sand, which will be removed from the site and may be used for local beach replenishment.
To accomplish the road work, Union Paving will use, among other equipment, a small Caterpillar 315 excavator, a 345 compact excavator and a 365 excavator, Cat D4 and D7 bulldozers, 938 and 950 loaders and a Cat PM 200 milling machine newly purchased from Foley Inc. "We just bought it because there’s so much milling on this job," Lemmon said.
In addition to excavation, asphalt and storm sewer work, Union Paving’s five crews are working on power line relocation and improvements. "The storm damaged the poles and electrical system, so they’re being upgraded," Lemmon said.
When roadwork is finished, Lemmon said they will add landscaping in the form of trees and white stone — because "grass doesn’t grow at the beach."
Because each of the three contracts has a different general contractor, coordination and communication are critical, "We work together where our jobs butt up against one another," Lemmon said, adding that the DOT facilitates coordination between contractors and utility companies, which have to perform maintenance in tight spaces. "It takes a lot of coordination between contractors, the DOT and the residents."
Appeasing the peninsula’s residents requires multi-faceted effort.
"The residents care about their community," Lemmon said. "They love the beach and are very active." Their concern is sometimes a challenge, he added, although he sympathizes. "Everyone wants to rebuild, but nobody wants to go through it."
Residents have to endure work right in front of their homes as crews lay pipe 15 to 20 ft. (4.6 to 6 m) deep. "We’re becoming their alarm clock," Lemmon said. "The pile driving is pretty loud." Simpson & Brown are doing the pile driving work.
The neighbors better get used to it. Crews are currently working nine to 10 hours a day, six days a week, but he said they "stepped that up" as winter approached, bumping up manpower to nine to 10 crews plus subs.
It has to be done in order to meet milestones. "The first leg of the project required a large portion to be constructed by May 2014. We can’t close roads during the summer tourist season," he said, so they ramped up during the off-season. During the heavily traveled summer months, all existing travel lanes will remain open to traffic, but from September 2013 to May 2014, one northbound and southbound lane had to be closed.
Crews also are becoming a roadblock for residents. With houses located close together — as many as three in a 100-ft. stretch of road — it’s impossible to maintain access during reconstruction. Fortunately, Lemmon said, the area sees only about 30 percent occupancy during the winter, so it was less crowded then.
But it’s still tight quarters on site, he added, making it difficult for utility companies to get in to do maintenance.
The schedule also is tight. "There’s a lot of work to do in a short amount of time," Lemmon said. Restricting work during peak summer months means crews have to endure uncooperative weather conditions. Digging the deep wells to pump ground water is more difficult to do in the winter. "You have to watch for leaks and keep it from freezing."
A year and a half after the devastating storm, weather remains an issue. While crews can remain vigilant for water leaks and adjust their schedule to work at low tide, they can’t work around certain weather conditions. "Wind stopped work at one location when it caused flooding," Lemmon said.
Many communities from the Caribbean to New Jersey still struggle with Sandy’s aftermath even today. Hurricane Sandy was one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season and the second-costliest hurricane in United States history. It will take time to rebuild. As Gov. Cuomo toured the area on the one year anniversary, he told the New York Daily News, "It is a warning, and I want New Yorkers to remember what we went through. It would be a mistake if we let our guard down. You have to assume it will happen again." Former Mayor Bloomberg, with him on the tour, responded unequivocally that they are prepared for the next one. Carefully planned reconstruction plays a significant role in that preparation.
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