By Jennifer Vasquez
EAST NEWARK –
Commuters who pass by Clay Street Bridge may be surprised that the bridge, which was slated for an early September re-opening after a two-month-long closing, is still cut off to traffic and motorists, while access is still allowed to pedestrians on both sides of the structure.
The opening, which has been slated for an early September re-opening, has been pushed back to the end of the year, though no specific date has been set.
According to East Newark Mayor Joseph Smith, the delay in opening could be due to a level of contamination discovered by the agency contracted for repairs.
“My understanding is that there is some form of contamination (at the site) that must be taken care of before the bridge opens to traffic,” he explained.
Scafar Contracting, Inc. is the engineering and construction agency hired by the City of Newark to install a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) chamber on the city’s side of the bridge.
As previously reported on the July 11 issue of The Observer, a CSO acts as a filter by barring items and debris larger than half an inch from entering the river.
Smith said there is nothing the borough can do about the situation, since the issues concerning the closing of the bridge fall within Newark’s (Essex County) jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, Smith fully understands motorists’ frustration over being denied access to the bridge, which results in heavy congestion at times.
“The (delay) has been very disappointing,” Smith said. “The closing has caused traffic and is a real setback for commuters.”
East Newark Police Chief Kenneth Sheehan has been attentive to the transit issues and delays the continual closing of the bridge has produced.
“We get a backflow in the morning,” Sheehan explained. “There’s traffic from Kearny and the South Bergen area (residents) who need to access central Newark and because of the Clay Street Bridge closing they’ve been using the Bridge Street Bridge.”
The use of the Bridge Street Bridge – connecting Harrison with Newark – has also produced congestion problems, particularly in the morning rush hour.
“There’s half a mile to a quarter of a mile backups especially between 8 and 9 a.m. on Passaic and Central (avenues),” Sheehan said.
Calls to Scafar Contracting for an update and details on the bridge delay were not been returned in time for publication of this story.