State to study problem bridges

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

Two long-neglected Passaic River vehicular bridges have been targeted for rehabilitation or replacement by a state transit agency.

They are: the DeJessa Memorial (Kingsland Ave.) Bridge that links Lyndhurst and Nutley and the Bridge St. Bridge which connects Harrison and Newark.

On Monday, Dec. 4, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority voted to prioritize planning studies for each “functionally obsolete” span.

The NJTPA earmarked $750,000 for a study of the DeJessa Bridge and $600,000 for the Bridge St. Bridge to devise a “preferred alternative” strategy for remedying the various deficiencies of each.

Both are movable swing bridges, designed to allow for the passage of marine traffic.

The Kingsland bridge, rededicated in 1981 to the memory of U.S. Marine Joseph Carmine DeJessa, the first Lyndhurst resident killed in the Vietnam War, was built in 1905 and refurbished in 1986.

The Bridge St. Bridge, a thruway for County Rt. 508, was constructed in 1913 and rehabilitated in 1981. Motorists have only one lane to cross in each direction and the bridgekeepers require four hours’ notice to swing open the bridges for passing vessels. The Bridge St. Bridge is listed on the N.J. Register of Historic Places. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy knocked its two electric motors out of commission, along with old mechanical parts that allow the bridge to open and close. And that created delays for barges transporting contaminated soil being excavated, at the time, from a section of Lyndhurst mudflats along the Passaic riverbank.

At the DeJessa Bridge, state traffic studies reportedly show that more than 40,000 vehicles use that bridge daily and officials from Bergen and Essex counties agree that the bridge is simply not equipped to bear that kind of load.

And commuters complain that they’re subjected to further delays by poor synchronization of traffic lights on either side of the bridge and on the bridge itself.

Lyndhurst, in conjunction with Bergen County, is now in the process of making adjustments to the intersection at Kingsland and Park Aves., including new dedicated turning signals, and expansions of rights of way along the bridge approach that, officials hope, will help relieve some of the traffic buildup.

Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso said he was happy to hear about the NJTPA’s action. “It only took them nine years,” he added, noting that he’s been agitating that long for a replacement span. “It’s well overdue.”

“We need a new bridge,” the mayor said. “The traffic congestion there is one of the worst in the state. Let’s hope this [planning study] gets moving quickly.’’

In the meantime, he said, commuters can look forward to the installation of a new timing system for the lights on and off the bridge, “once we get synchronized with Nutley. It should happen within a month or two.”

Other bridges prioritized for planning studies are: the Central Ave. Bridge over the Newark City Subway, dating from 1908, $500,000; the Sixth Ave. Bridge over the Passaic River in Passaic County, $600,000; and the Monmouth County (Bingham Ave.) Bridge over the Navesink River. $600,000.

The Observer Staff