When the New Jersey Department of Transportation began its road-widening project three years ago on State Route 1&9, known in Hudson County as Tonnelle Avenue, it was slated to be complete in the beginning of 2009.
However, DOT spokeswoman Erin Phalon said last week that the project will not be finished until July of 2010.
“In our eyes, it should have been done already,” said North Bergen Town Administrator Christopher Pianese last week. “So many things have gone on to delay the completion.”
Some roads have been widened and many traffic lights have been added to the area, but there is more to do.
Pianese said that since it was a state project, North Bergen had nothing to do with it, but the town is heavily affected by the traffic construction it has caused. Motorists cut through local streets to avoid Tonnelle Avenue tie-ups.
“It seems to be inordinately long for a state project.” – Nicholas Sacco
They also planned to replace sewer and drainage systems and create sidewalks for pedestrians. At least one lane on the north and southbound lanes are kept open during construction to allow for the flow of traffic.
Phalon said the delay was associated with a “change of plans,” rather than utility problems including a water main break, as Pianese suspected.
Traffic at its worst
Mayor and Sen. Nicholas Sacco, who is chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he expected the construction to have been completed this past April.
“It seems to be inordinately long for a state project,” said Sacco.
Sacco said another problem surrounding construction is the “unnecessary” closing of lanes and the “constant work” it has placed on the North Bergen Police.
When asked if the DOT gave him a new estimated date of completion, Sacco said that “all we can do is stay on top of them.”
Sacco said that the companies that received contracts for the project are likely receiving penalties because they have gone over the expected time limit.
What’s done, and what remains
According to Phalon, from 41st to 53rd streets, drainage and utilities have been improved on the northbound side, but work has not been completed southbound. Two traffic signals have been installed in that area.
All work in the northbound lanes from 53rd to 61st streets has been completed, utility equipment has been relocated, and drainage and widening has been finished, she said. A new traffic signal will be installed in this area as well.
The crews still have to pave roadways from 61st to 83rd streets. She said the roadways in that area have already been widened. She said that drainage had also been improved, along with the installation of seven traffic signals.
From 83rd to 91st streets, utility and drainage work is currently underway, and three traffic signals have been installed. But additional “drainage and widening work” must be completed, Phalon said.
In August 2007, a state construction crew caused a 24-inch water main to rupture, causing a massive amount of water to flood Tonnelle Avenue and cause a traffic nightmare that lasted more than a day. At the time, the crew was working on widening 69th Street and creating an exit ramp off of Tonnelle Avenue.
Pianese said that there may have been other snags along the way involving gas mains and other underground utilities.
Phalon said that in August 2008 a four inch gas main was struck and took several hours to repair.
“We have had some other utility problems, but none that have substantially delayed the project and there have been a few water main breaks, including one in April and May of 2007 on the south bound side that caused flooding and took a week to clean up.” said Phalon.
Sacco noted that Tonnelle Avenue was seriously in need of fixing. He said that adding turn lanes, moving water pipes to help eliminate flooding, and widening the road were important.
“They’re doing a lot of really good work for the people of North Bergen in this area,” said Sacco. “I’m just frustrated that it has taken so long.”
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.