New Jersey DOT Eases Bottlenecks with Route 46 Reconstruction
A Better Way to the Big Apple: New Jersey DOT Improves Safety and Congestion on Route 46 to New York City
New York City is a magnet for people and the area in and around the city is teeming. Route 46, a prominent road in Passaic County about 20 miles outside of Manhattan, is overcrowded. The primary aim of the Route 3, Route 46, Valley Road and Notch/Rifle Camp Road Interchange Project is to improve safety, reduce congestion, and give local traffic other driving options.
This project is made up of two contracts. Construction for Contract A began nearly four years ago in December 2015. It was complete at the end of October.
On this section of Route 46, “there are chronic bottlenecks and accidents,” says Hardev Dave, a Project Manager for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT). In his role, Dave has multiple responsibilities including serving as a go between among the various municipalities, the county and others as well as overseeing scope, schedule, budget and quality. He notes the overall project will allow traffic to flow better and give commuters more driving options and ultimately result in few accidents.
During the second contract, work will focus on traditional ways of easing chronic bottlenecks. These methods will include realignment and widening the lanes. The current lanes are narrow and cause traffic to slow down. The shoulders will also be widened in order to meet national standards.
Service Road Proves Challenging
Contract A, an advanced contract, focused on a few elements as well newly constructing a mile-long service road. The primary goal of the service road is to, “keep local traffic on the service road and off of Route 46,” says Steve Schapiro Deputy Director of Communications for NJDOT.
Getting the two-lane service road built was a major challenge. The area is crowded with both residences and businesses nearby. Despite the relative minor length of the road, it goes through three different towns and municipalities. “Satisfying local officials and residents of the towns as well as county officials who each have particular interests meant a good deal of mitigating,” says Dave.
One of the concerns locals had was noise. The plan the contractor had in regards to blasting of the rock had to be adjusted due to vibration levels. Instead of a few larger blasts, the project was adjusted to have several smaller blasts. According to Dave, the minimized blasting charge led to delays in overall construction.
Ultimately, the project finished in a reasonable amount of time and was just a couple of months later than originally planned. “To complete a project of this size and magnitude pretty much on time is a real accomplishment,” says Dave. He credits the team – the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); NJDOT; the designer, Stantec Consulting Services; and the contractor, Creamer-Sanzari; a Joint Venture – and their great efforts for making this happen.
Another significant aspect of the project was utility relocation. One of the goals of Contract A was moving as many utilities as possible away from the highway in order to avoid conflict. Assistant Project Manager Vijay Patel, led this aspect of the project, and he notes that, “The majority of the utility has been completed as part of Contract A.” Along with overall assistance on the project, Patel was continuously involved in more than usual coordination between the FHWA and NJDOT due to full federal oversight.
Bridge Work Adds to the Project
Montclair State University is in the vicinity where the project is taking place. The university, which is primarily a commuter school, has experienced a large uptick in enrollment. Some travel to the university via train. A newly built Clove Road bridge along with ramps allows commuters to avoid Route 46 and travel from the service road to the university and train station.
Reconstruction of an existing Notch Road bridge was another aspect of the project. Dave notes the work included installing new beams and parapets. The bridge work included regular closures, which led to traffic diversions.
Another improvement was the construction of three signalized intersections. Contract B will add two single-lane roundabouts. Again, the aim of all is to keep traffic moving and ease congestion on Route 46.
Coordination is Key
Because of the multiple aspects – including but not limited to extensive right of way acquisitions and environmental permits related to the project – managing it was challenging. Besides ensuring the proper manpower, coordinating the wide array of equipment was a consideration. “How to bring in the equipment that best fits the area and gets the work done at the correct time meant coordinating quite a few variables,” says Dave. “On top of this, we had to consider the local businesses and minimizing road closures.” He chalks it up to the challenges involved in working in a congested area.
Although some of the more prominent and dramatic changes will happen in Contract B, Contract A is already helping alleviate the issues the area has experienced. “With the work that has been done, traffic is flowing more smoothly,” says Dave. “The service road in particular was a major mitigation and a huge improvement for local traffic.”
The construction contract was originally bid for $50 million, but upon completion, the tab is closer to $60 million. Between the need to satisfy the multiple end users, the significant amount of utility work – which can add costs because of the inherent unknowns – and the change orders, Dave feels that overall the final budget was reasonable. The successful communication between Creamer-Sanzari JV and Stantec to resolve issues quickly ultimately limited extra costs.
With the completion of Contract A, an advanced contract, the Route 3, Route 46, Valley Road and Notch/Rifle Camp Road Interchange Project has provided local traffic with more options for traveling to get where they have to go without using Route 46. When Contract B finishes in 2024, traffic will flow even better and the number of accidents should be minimized.