New Jersey Route 465 Bridge Upgrade Underway
Maintaining Critical Connections: New Jersey DOT Overcomes Challenging Location to Upgrade Route 495 Bridge
After a decade of planning and design, the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) $102 million update of the Route 495 bridge in Hudson County, which connects the New Jersey Turnpike with the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan, is well under way and progressing well.
“We are making repairs to structural steel and redecking the bridge,” says Steve Schapiro, Deputy Director of Communications for NJDOT.
Additionally, the project will replace bridge decking on two ramps, make drainage improvements to avoid flooding, paint the substructure to prevent corrosion and protect the structure, and install safety upgrades and security fencing.
The eight-lane Route 495 viaduct was constructed in 1938 and carries traffic above the NYS&W and Conrail rail lines, Route 1/9, Paterson Plank Road, Liberty Avenue in North Bergen and a New Jersey Transit parking lot. The bridge has been rated structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.
“This will give it a life of another 50-plus years,” says Hardev Dave, Project Manager for NJDOT.
The viaduct has nine spans, and its original plans were lost during the terrorism events of September 11, 2001. Repairs now will reduce the need for future emergency repairs.
Greenman-Pederson of Lebanon, New Jersey, designed the rehabilitation project, which is state funded.
The department awarded the construction contract to IEW Construction Group of Trenton, New Jersey, in 2017 and work began in September of that year. The family-owned company was founded in 1925
“We have a good project team that I am proud of, as the project manager,” Dave says. “Everybody has teamed up for the betterment of the project.”
The project touches four different municipalities – Secaucus, North Bergen, Union City, and Weehawken – requiring coordination with four sets of local officials. A community outreach team has kept people informed about staging and other matters for commuters and businesses in the area. In addition to traditional outreach, the team uses social media and a telephone hot line. NJDOT has encouraged public transportation, car pools, telecommuting and adjusting travel times.
One of the greatest challenges has been maintaining traffic. About 150,000 vehicles drive on the bridge daily. Additionally, the work takes place in an urban area, with hotels, apartments and a school nearby.
“The interesting aspect of this project is the location,” Schapiro says. “This is the major access into the Lincoln Tunnel and Midtown Manhattan, and there are not easy routes to shift traffic to.”
With Route 495 to the tunnel not having easy alternate routes, the work had to be completed while maintaining traffic on the structure. NJDOT designed the project in multiple stages, closing only one lane in each direction, leaving three lanes open for vehicles.
“We are doing the work two lanes at a time, while maintaining traffic,” Schapiro reports. “It’s quite challenging but successful so far.”
Some drivers are diverted to city streets. Early in the project, modifications were made to the approaches and local streets to accommodate the detours. Timing changes were made to traffic signals and turning lanes were added. A temporary access road was created for the NJ Transit Park and Ride Lot.
NJDOT developed a traffic management plan, which includes installation of an intelligent traffic system, dynamic message signs, overhead lane control signals, and closed-circuit television cameras, which allows NJDOT and emergency responders to monitor the traffic.
At night, the contractor can close one additional lane on the bridge. NJDOT considered temporary overnight closures, but the structure’s framing and geometry made it impossible to replace small sections of the road at night and open it back to traffic during the day.
The bridge also carries an exclusive morning bus line for commuters headed into Manhattan. More than 1,800 buses each day take the route and carry about 63,000 people every morning. That bus lane is being maintained throughout construction.
“Overall, traffic is flowing as well as can be expected during construction,” Schaprio says. “There are some delays, because of the lane reductions. But for the most part, there have not been more than 10 to 15 minutes increases in travel time.”
Construction occurs near to traffic. Standard construction barriers with reflectors protect the workers, and the project remains a safe job.
“We have been very strict about safety,” Dave says. Along with motorists, we are trying our best to give contractor’s personnel a safe way to work on this bridge.”
Work began on the bridge in August 2018 and will take more than two and a half years.
To protect the workers and people below, IEW installed scaffolding, similar to shielding, underneath the entire bridge.
“They are walking under the bridge to repair the steel,” Dave says.
In some instances, sections of steel have been identified for replacement, while others are being rehabilitated. Workers will carefully remove and replace steel plates.
Pillars and bearings also need replacing and repairing. IEW will replace bearings that allow the bridge to sway with vibration. Crews will reconstruct the movable joints. This work requires jacking up sections of the bridge structure about a quarter of an inch.
The drainage improvements include boosting the bridge’s cross slopes to help stormwater run off of the bridge and a replacement of the entire drainage system on the bridge.
The contractor is using traditional construction equipment, including a mobile crane. NJDOT has installed noise monitoring equipment. Additionally, the schedule minimizes noise at certain times to limit negative effects on residents, businesses and the community.
IEW has several crews of workers on site. Work continues through the winter. NJDOT expects completion of the project in fall 2021.
Photos courtesy of the New Jersey Department of Transportation