‘Sinkhole’ poses hazards for motorists


By Ron Leir


An ongoing mystery that has continued to stymie West Hudson public works and engineering personnel is deepening … literally.

And so the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission is hoping to get to the bottom of it – “it” being an ever-growing sinkhole along Schuyler Ave. at Hamilton St., across the street from the Harrison High School stadium near the Kearny border.

Since it’s only a couple of blocks away from the Harrison Ave. intersection – the southernmost tip of a major north/south artery crossing through West Hudson and South Bergen – the roadway depression poses a serious hazard to motorists navigating through the sector.

Not to mention the potential threat to what Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos refers to as a “stew of water and sewer lines” running under that section of Schuyler Ave. Public works crews from Harrison and Kearny, along with contractors retained by both communities, have excavated sections of that intersection or near it to try and puzzle out the problem with the steadily softening asphalt.

“It’s still unclear why that’s happening,” Santos said last week. “We suspect it has to do with a combined (sanitary and storm water) sewer line of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission but it also might be our water line. We repaired a 150-foot-long section of the line after a small sag was discovered.”

Issues with the compromised roadway have been “recurring for the last five years,” according to Santos.

Schuyler Ave. is “one of the oldest roads in the county,” Santos said, “and has clearly seen a lot of wear and tear” from all kinds of vehicles that use the roadway.

And that extensive traffic and pounding has certainly taken its toll.

“There’s a good drop there (at Schuyler and Hamilton),” Santos said. “Probably about a foot and it’s still sinking.”

One motorist who recently drove through the intersection noted that even as you approach it, “You don’t see it. It’s like a big dip. I felt it was engineered that way.”

PVSC Chief Engineer John Rotolo agreed that a “sinkhole has developed” and he credited Harrison public works personnel with having “isolated the area of concern.” It’s become so serious that the PVSC has arranged for police to set up barricades to divert traffic, he said.

Fixing it – and repairing a PVSC sewer line in the process – could total close to $500,000, Rotolo said.

“Our line – the Kearny/Harrison/ Newark branch interceptor – is a 42-inch concrete combined sewer pipe that was built in the 1920s that needs work and the contractor we hire will be doing drilling, test borings, ground-penetrating radar, pressure grouting, paving and lining of the sewer,” he said.

Rotolo said the PVSC has taken bids and is ready to award the contract but he noted that moving forward with the job could be contingent on getting funding from the state Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund.

Meanwhile, in other transit- related developments, Kearny’s streetscape project on Kearny Ave. has run into a slight bump in the road on a few fronts: the contractor is placing a revised order for trash receptacles; the township is trying to decide on a color for new parking meter heads since the proposed forest green has been discontinued; the decorative kiosks are still awaited; and the NJ Transit bus shelter won’t be installed for another two months.

At the July 10 meeting, the Kearny Town Council authorized contracting with Hatch Mott MacDonald, a Millburn engineering fi rm, for $122,790 for the final design of phase one of the Riverbank Park Bike Trail. Santos said the town has qualifi ed for a federal earmark of $2 million, including engineering costs, for a combination walkway/bike trail project.

Phase one will extend along the Passaic River waterfront, from the Belleville Turnpike to the N. Midland Ave. culvert.

It’s expected to take eight to 10 months to complete the design, Santos said. “It’s complicated due to the trees in the park,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re going to try not to have any removed.”

In Harrison, the Hudson County Improvement Authority, in cooperation with the Town of Harrison and the state Department of Transportation, invited the community to attend a public information session on strategies for access improvements to the Rt. 280 ramp approaches on July 24 at 5:30 p.m. in the second-fl oor council chambers at Town Hall, 318 Harrison Ave.

According to the HCIA and DOT, the existing Rt. 280 ramp access configuration in Harrison is outdated, inconsistent with current federal policy, and an impediment to present and future economic redevelopment initiatives.

The study is exploring how to best consolidate the existing partial ramp system that connects several of the local streets to Rt. 280 into a single interchange that will improve safety and mobility for drivers and pedestrians on both Rt. 280 and the local streets and improve access to and through the Harrison waterfront redevelopment area.


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