By Ron Leir
A paving project proved problematic for drivers using the heavily traveled Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard South in Harrison the first week of September due to the milling process that removes the existing road surface by machine to expose the road base. Commuters were confronted by lengthy delays as they attempted to negotiate a bottleneck that stretched for several blocks in each direction, to and from the roadway under the PATH and Conrail bridges. A job that was expected to take no more than two to three days stretched into five.
Harrison posted a notice on its Web site advising residents “On Monday, Aug. 31, and Tuesday, Sept. 1, construction work will start on F.E. Rodgers Blvd. in the vicinity of the PATH Station (under the PATH Bridge). Expect a heavy volume of traffic.”
Harrison Mayor Raymond J. McDonough said the town asked Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise to see if the county, which has jurisdiction over the road, could do something to improve its condition.
“It’s beat up from wear and tear from truck traffic and it’s got a lot of potholes because of drainage issues under the bridge,” McDonough said. “So the county exec turned it over to Bob Jasek, the county engineer, to arrange for the work and now there’s a contractor doing milling and paving.”
Jasek indicated that there is action on two fronts in that area. A contractor retained by the developer of the Harrison Commons mixed-use project is widening a section of Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard from Cape May Street to the PATH Station, by eight feet to make a four-lane road and installing new underground utilities and that job is about 80 percent complete.
At the same time, Jasek said the county hired AJM Contractors, of Clifton, to pave a several-block-long section of F.E. Rodgers Blvd. South.
The county incorporated the job as part of a $364,000 contract it previously awarded AJM to do various paving projects in Bayonne and North Bergen. He estimated that the Harrison job would cost “about $100,000.”
There’s also money being fronted by the contractor – which the county will have to reimburse – to pay for three Hudson County sheriff’s officers and two Harrison police officers for directing traffic along F.E. Rodgers Blvd. South, between roughly Bergen Street and Taft Street.
“It’s taken a little longer than we expected,” Jasek said, referring to the paving job. “We anticipated a three-day job but the contractor’s milling machine broke – which I know because I was at the job site the second day and nothing was happening for a while – but they’ve since rectified that.”
But as the contractor proceeded, police alternately restricted north-south flow to one lane in each direction. Because of that, and long lights traffic was periodically backed up to Harrison Avenue to the north or to Middlesex Street to the south. Roadside businesses had a few things to say about the predicament.
Nirmal Patwalia, who runs NCK Fueling, a service station at 507 F.E. Rodgers Blvd. South, said on Tuesday, Sept. 2, – the second day of the paving job – that, “Normally we pump 9,000 gallons a day but yesterday, we did only 5,000 gallons so we lost a lot of people.”
Just south of the gas station, at the Harrison Car Wash, manager John Hincapie was equally frustrated.
“It’s killing us. You have part of the road closed, and all the dust and confusion, so people just jump on (Route) 280 and go home,” Hincapie said. “We do 60 to 70 cars a day. (During the milling process,) we did four cars. Normally we close at 8 p.m. – yesterday, I closed at 4 p.m. I’m just hoping they do the work faster.”
Still, Hincapie acknowledged that the work needed to be done.
“Underneath the bridge, it’s all potholes,” he said. “Driving my big truck, I can feel it.”
Meanwhile, at the nearby Harrison Commons project site, the developer is getting closer to starting environmental cleanup/remediation and infrastructure improvements in the area at Middlesex Street and Somerset Street where the first 253 rental apartments are slated to rise. Potomoc-Environmental, Inc., of South Amboy, has placed a construction trailer at the work site.
Dave Esposito, construction supervisor for Applied Development Co., a partner with the Pegasus Group in the development company, said that the developer will likely tear down two empty homes on South Third Street and the big house at the corner of South Third and Middlesex in about a month to clear more space for the first phase of the project.
Esposito said the Harrison Commons project will be modeled after Pier Village, a 500-unit development under construction in Long Branch.
Harrison Commons is targeted, at full build-out, for more than 400 apartments, from studios to three-bedrooms, to be contained in two four-story clusters, along with some ground-floor retail, several large courtyards, an outdoor pool and an indoor fitness facility.
Minno & Wasko, of Lambertville, is the architect for the project.