By Ron Leir
State officials are still pondering what to do about the century-old DeJessa Bridge which links Lyndhurst and Nutley across the Passaic River but, in the meantime, Bergen County has done its part to try and relieve congestion there.
At the urging of Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso, the county undertook – and has now completed – improvements to the Kingsland and Riverside Aves. intersection on the Lyndhurst side of the bridge.
The work, performed by JCC Contracting of Bloomfield, which, according to township engineer Brian Intindola, cost the county about $814,000, had several components:
Creating three separate eastbound lanes coming off the bridge into Lyndhurst dedicated to left turns onto Riverside, continuing straight onto Kingsland or turning right onto Riverside.
Creating an extra lane southbound on Riverside, allowing traffic to turn left onto the bridge.
Installation of eight pedestrian push button stations at every corner of the intersection. Each has a voice actualization feature that urges people to “wait” for a pedestrian image to appear before crossing.
Signalization upgrades, including a new control box, incorporating turning arrows, along with an improved synchronization of the timing of lights on and off the bridge, to facilitate the flow of traffic.
As part of the project, Intindola said, PSE&G ultimately agreed to relocate seven of its utility poles and wiring at different points of the intersection. “Originally, they wanted us to pay over $300,000 for the work,” he said, but after push-back by the township, the company relented.
Lyndhurst paid for relocation of two signs and underground utilities for 601 Riverside Ave. ($39,370) and for the Exxon property along with a tree removal ($54,350) plus the acquisition of seven easements from private property owners surrounding the intersection for $43,300 but the process took seven years, Intindola said.
Getting those easements and shifting the utility poles and equipment was critical to widening the intersection to accommodate the extra lanes while ensuring minimal construction conflicts and traffic disruptions, the engineer said.
In the spring, the contractor will apply the finishing touches to the intersection with milling, paving and final striping. Intindola said that work will be done overnight when traffic is light.
Giangeruso said that since the completion of the upgraded signalization in December, “the prior intersection delays have been diminished with a noticeable improvement to Kingsland Ave. westbound traffic going over the DeJessa Bridge.”
Intindola readily agreed, adding that a trip from his Lyndhurst office to Nutley, via the bridge, that – before the improvements – “used to take me 18 minutes now is just three to five minutes. I used to have to wait a cycle of four to five traffic signals to cross over. Now it’s down to maybe one and a half. You don’t see the queues you used to have.”
And, before the paving work is done this spring, Giangeruso said, “the signal timing will be revisited for coordination with the Rt. 21 ramp signal and the Park Ave. signal in Nutley.”
The mayor told The Observer he’s gotten a lot of positive phone calls and comments from residents in response to the intersection work that he’s been pushing for since coming into office.
As an example, he showed a reporter a letter postmarked Jan. 8 from someone who signed themselves “Lyndhurst resident” saying, “Just wanted to thank you very much for the new traffic lights at the Lyndhurst bridge. The (now) ‘green arrows’ really organize the flow of traffic very well. Thank you so much.”
Giangeruso is now hoping that the next step can be a widening or replacement of the bridge itself – something that the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority has committed to examine in detail by allocating $750,000 for a planning study for the bridge.
It will be up to Bergen County to bid out the planning project, according to Intindola, who says the construction cost will depend on whether the bridge is maintained as a “navigable” structure, meaning that it will continue to swing out to allow boats to pass, or is replaced by a “fixed” span, meaning that it would no longer open to let boats pass.
Keeping the bridge “navigable” could drive the cost up to as much as $30 million while installing a “fixed” bridge could mean cutting half that cost, Intindola said.